Residents in 36 suburbs across Melbourne went into lockdown overnight as the state recorded its fifth straight day of more than 40 new cases of coronavirus.
The restrictions came into force at midnight, and residents in the hotspots now have just four reasons to leave home, they are - essential shopping, caregiving, exercise and to study or work.
They are also banned from visiting New South Wales and face heavy fines or even prison time if they do.
12 new testing sites are being established in lockdown areas with police enforcing stay-at-home orders.
And the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us now from Melbourne this morning. Minister, good morning to you.
Good morning Sam.
Are you confident these lockdowns will work, and that people will be tested when they’re doorknocked?
These lockdowns do give us the best chance of containing the virus in the hotspot suburbs.
Overwhelmingly, people are accepting the testing and we want more to do that.
We know that some people, even with all of the information, may not be aware as to why somebody is knocking on the door, so the more information, the better.
But in particular, we’re encouraging all people in the hotspot areas to be tested, to accept the advice.
So if you’re watching today, if somebody knocks and they’re seeking for you to be tested; it will help protect you, but it will help protect your neighbours, your family, your friends and Australians everywhere.
Yes. I know we’re a free country here, but is there no way, in a situation like this, a public health crisis, that we cannot make mandatory testing- make testing mandatory in these suburbs?
Well, at this stage the Premier has spoken on this and was incli- not inclined to make it mandatory because of a likely counter response.
However, that is an option that’s available under the state laws; they can do that if there are concerns.
More generally though, what we’ve seen is yesterday almost 50,000 tests around Australia, over 20,000 tests in Victoria with the vast majority of those being in or around the hotspot suburbs.
So we’re testing at a rate which is four times greater than it was only a few months ago because we’ve got the increased capacity, we’ve got the increased setup, this is helping to find the cases.
And I think it’s important to step back.
As a country, we’ve been through these difficult situations, so for the residents it will be a challenging month.
But we’ve all done this, we know how to do this.
And we’ve always said, if there are hotspots, then we’ll have to take these local actions, test, trace, local response.
So, this is a pathway for the whole nation to get through this, so seven out of eight states and territories; very strong at the moment.
Okay. But what we’re hearing out of Melbourne at the moment, is just a disaster. There are reports this morning, security guard’s that were employed by private firms to monitor quarantine hotels have been rorting the system, they’ve been charging for unworked shifts.
There’s allegations that some of these private security officers were sleeping with the guests in quarantine – what do you make of that?
If those statements are true, that would be completely and utterly unacceptable.
And we would encourage the Victorian authorities to throw the book at them if any of these individuals or the firms have behaved inappropriately.
Right now there will be a judicial inquiry, and we welcome that, we endorse that.
Around the country, the hotel quarantine system has brought over 60,000 Australians home, overwhelmingly safely.
There are two cases where it appears that there have been clear breaches with significant ramifications and therefore, two things have to happen.
One, a full, thorough and complete, and fearless investigation.
Two, we have to make sure that these systems are leak-proof.
And that’s what’s occurred in the rest of the country – we want to make sure that that is the case in Melbourne in these two hotels going forward.
Yes. A lot of questions for the Victorian Government here. Greg Hunt, thanks for your time today, we appreciate it.