5 million Melbourne residents put under lockdown for six weeks

Over five million people living in Australian city of Melbourne will face severe restrictions from midnight on Wednesday to contain the spread of coronavirus. Multiple checkpoints would be set up around the city to ensure people stay at home.

Victoria state police has warned to conduct random checks of vehicles on major roads. “The community can expect to see…checkpoints anytime and anywhere,” the police said in a statement.

Citizens will be allowed to leave home only for essential business for the next six weeks. Cafes, bars, restaurants and gyms will remain shut.

The lockdown follows the closure of the border of the state of Victoria with the rest of Australia.

“The rest of the country knows that the sacrifice that you’re going through right now is not just for you and your own family, but it’s for the broader Australian community,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Victoria state government has blamed quarantine breaches for the recent spike in coronavirus cases. An official inquiry has begun.

Melbourne reported 134 new infections on Wednesday, down from the previous day’s record 191.

In Sydney, authorities were scrambling to track down 48 passengers who disembarked from a Melbourne flight without being checked for COVID-19 symptoms.

The resurgence of the virus has sparked fears of a second wave. Authorities have been quick in imposing containment measures but this will make it tougher for the economy to get back on its feet.

Australia is sinking to its first recession in 30 years. The border closures and Melbourne lockdown could cost the economy up to A$1 billion ($700 million) per week, experts estimate.

Nationwide, Australia has reported about 9,000 COVID-19 cases and 106 deaths from the virus.