Victoria has reported a record daily coronavirus case total as Australia’s second-most populous state enters its strictest lockdown since the pandemic began.
The state had 725 new cases in the past 24 hours, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday. Fifteen people died in that period.
The resurgence in Victoria, which accounts for almost a quarter of Australia’s GDP, shows no sign of abating and threatens to overwhelm an economic recovery in other parts of the nation. The state’s second lockdown has triggered some of the strictest social-distancing enforcement measures in the western world, and is a grim warning to the U.S. and some European nations that are struggling to flatten their own pandemic curves.
Victoria will this week shut down large parts of its retail and manufacturing sectors for six weeks across Melbourne.
Construction firms must radically reduce the number of workers on site across the city, while production at meatworks statewide will be cut by a third. Essential services such as banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations will remain open.
The effective isolation of the state and sporadic outbreaks in neighboring New South Wales are likely to start eroding confidence in the rest of Australia, which had been in the vanguard of nations enjoying early success in quashing the spread of the virus.
Melbourne’s outbreak has shown no signs of abating, three weeks after the city’s 5 million residents were ordered to stay at home except for essential work, exercise, medical care or provisions. The Victoria government has now imposed an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in the metropolitan area and widened lockdown measures across the entire state.
The state said Tuesday that anyone flouting isolation rules will face an on-the-spot fine of as much as A$5,000 ($3,560).
“I’m so grateful and so proud to think Victorians are dealing with this challenge, a bigger challenge than perhaps we have ever faced,” Andrews said Tuesday.
New South Wales, a state which borders Victoria, is managing to contain the outbreak and recorded 12 new cases on Tuesday. Still, on Tuesday, Queensland state announced it would close its borders to all travelers from New South Wales and the Australia Capital Territory from Saturday.