COVID lockdown in Melbourne: Permits for childcare, 3-mile travel limit, daily 1-hour outdoor limit

Curfews, mandatory face masks also part of the severe restrictions.

Updated: August 6, 2020 - 3:45pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Australian city of Melbourne is now under the grip of one of the most severe coronavirus lockdowns among Western nations, with officials imposing harsh restrictions on residents of the capital city, including a one-hour-per-day limit on outdoor activities and a curfew beginning at 8 every night. 

Victoria — the Australian state of which Melbourne is the capital — has posted relatively low numbers of COVID-19 infections throughout the pandemic, under 13,500 cases over the past six months out of an entire population of about 6.6 million.

The majority of those cases have been detected since late June, when infections began spiking in the state. The highest number of posted infections in a 24-hour period has been 710. 

Deaths have also remained low, with the state recording just 170 total fatalities from the disease as of Thursday.

Nevertheless, the Victorian government has set in place severe restrictions, which are meant to last at least six weeks.

Melbourne has the most restrictive policies in place, being placed under a "stage 4" lockdown while the rest of the state is under stage 3 directives.

Among the stage 4 restrictions are the widespread banning of onsite work in the retail and administration industries, as well as sharp reductions in the number of manufacturing and construction workers allowed to go to work. 

On Wednesday, the state government announced that, under stage 4 guidelines, residents must seek government permits if they wish to place their children in childcare. Residents can acquire such permits only if they qualify as a "permitted worker." Individuals violating the "permit scheme" can be fined up to $20,000, including a $1,652 fine if a worker forgets to carry his or her permit to work. 

The government has consequently put into place an additional set of restrictions to govern the significant number of Melburnians now confined to their homes for at least a month in a half.

Among those is an explicit limit of one outing per household per day to purchase "food and necessary supplies" for one's home. That shopping "must be done within a 5km radius from where you live," and "only 1 person per household can leave for essential goods."

Apart from supply runs, medical care, and the few workers still allowed to head into work on a daily basis, Melbourne residents are allowed outside only to exercise "once a day for up to one hour within a 5km radius of your home." Exercise groups are held to a strict two-person limit. 

There are a handful of exceptions to those rules.

Melburnians, the government states, are "allowed to leave your home to visit your partner or as part of formal or informal shared parenting arrangements." Citizens may also leave to escape violent households or in the event of an emergency. 

"You must continue to wear a face covering when you leave your home," the guidelines state. 

This is not the first time Melbourne has imposed stringent lockdown measures on its residents. Last month the state locked down 3,000 residents of public housing towers as a quarantine measure, deploying police to ensure the residents did not leave their rooms for any reason.