Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, will begin its third lockdown on Friday due to a rapidly spreading COVID-19 cluster. The five-day lockdown will be enforced across Victoria state to prevent the virus spreading from the state capital, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said. The Australian Open tennis tournament will be allowed to continue but without spectators, he said. Only international flights that were already in the air when the lockdown was announced will be allowed to land at Melbourne Airport, the AP reports. Schools and many businesses will be closed. Residents are ordered to stay at home except to exercise and for essential purposes.
The city of 6.5 million is being locked down because of a contagious British variant of the virus first detected at a Melbourne Airport hotel that has infected 13 people. Andrews said the rate of spread demanded drastic action to avoid a new surge in Melbourne. "The game has changed. This thing is not the 2020 virus. It is very different. It is much faster. It spreads much more easily," Andrews told reporters. "I am confident that this short, sharp circuit breaker will be effective. We will be able to smother this." Melbourne emerged from a 111-day lockdown in October following a fresh wave of infections that peaked at 725 cases a day. It was largely blamed on lax infection control procedures at two Melbourne hotels where international travelers were required to quarantine for 14 days.
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