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Australia reinstates COVID-19 curbs in Melbourne after fresh outbreak

Australia reinstates COVID-19 curbs in Melbourne after fresh outbreak

The Fearless Girl statue looks at a "Please Stay Home" sign in an empty Federation Square in Melbourne on Feb 13, 2021. (File photo: Reuters/Sandra Sanders)

MELBOURNE: Australia's second-largest city Melbourne reinstated COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday (May 25) as authorities scrambled to find the missing link in a fresh outbreak that has grown to five cases.

Home gatherings will be limited to five guests, only 30 people allowed at public meetings, and face masks will be mandatory indoors from 6pm local time (4pm, Singapore time) on Tuesday until Jun 4.

"This is a responsible step that we need to take to get on top of this outbreak," James Merlino, Victoria state's acting premier, told reporters in Melbourne.

The latest Melbourne outbreak ends Victoria state's run of zero cases for nearly three months.

Victoria was the hardest-hit state during a second wave late last year, accounting for about 70 per cent of total cases and 90 per cent of deaths in Australia.

The state, the country's second-most populous, only controlled the outbreak after one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns.

READ: Australia's Victoria state investigates two likely COVID-19 positive cases

READ: Australia urges over-50s to get jabbed as COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy grows

One new locally acquired case has been reported in Melbourne, Merlino said on Tuesday, a day after four infections were reported in the city.

All five cases belong to one extended family across different households and could be traced back to the variant found in an overseas traveller who returned to Melbourne early this month after completing quarantine in the city of Adelaide.

Authorities, however, said that they could not yet find how the latest cases contracted the virus from the overseas traveller.

Thousands have been ordered to self-isolate and undergo COVID-19 tests with health alerts issued for several sites, including one of the largest shopping centres in the country.

One of the cases had a high viral load while he visited some venues, prompting authorities to warn Melbourne's 5 million residents to brace for more positive cases in the next few days.

Speedy tracing systems, movement curbs and social distancing have largely helped Australia contain COVID-19 outbreaks. It has recorded just over 30,000 cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began.

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Source: Reuters/kg

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