Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews have entered emergency discussions on whether the state should enter a New Zealand-style lockdown as cases continue to spike.
Victoria recorded 723 new cases on Thursday and is expected to record more than 600 new cases on Friday.
An emergency meeting held overnight reportedly included discussion about the possibility of shutting down non-essential industries — not including supermarkets and pharmacies — and further restrictions on movement in Melbourne.
Morrison foreshadowed the move on Thursday.
"We have now been in this lockdown now for some weeks, and we are not getting the results we would hope for. And as a result the further measures that are taken are certainly necessary,'' he said.
"They will have an impact on the economy — we understand that. But, equally, not containing these outbreaks will have that effect also. And so it's important that we continue to work together to get on top of this and to take whatever actions are necessary."
Andrews and his chief health officer Brett Sutton have urged Victorians to do the right thing in a bid to avoid extreme stage four restrictions.
They hoped the current lockdown would flatten the curve but that does not appear to have happened.
Speaking on Friday, Andrews said there would be no new restrictions announced but that the 627 new cases was "far too high".
"I had a long conversation with the Prime Minister last night," he said. "Both public health experts from the Victorian team and those on a national level, will spend the next day or two looking at the data at the six-week point, the halfway point of the stay-at-home orders that we put in place. That analysis will happen today and tomorrow, and then we'll have more to say.
"We need to acknowledge that these numbers are far too high. We could not open up with these numbers, we cannot open up with significantly lower numbers.
"That analysis will determine what the next steps we take are, and I thought it was appropriate to let Victorians know.
"That data will let us know what we need to do to drive these numbers down further."
VICTORIA EXPLORING NZ-STYLE LOCKDOWN
Chief health officer Brett Sutton says the state is "exploring" the idea of a New Zealand-style lockdown.
"That's what we're exploring now," he said. "Obviously, a step up in restrictions is a really significant measure but we are wanting it to be informed by evidence to the fullest extent possible, against that point of being proportionate.
"There are really significant consequences for what you do, in terms of increased restrictions.
"It has to be focused on what the data tells us about where transmission might be occurring. It may be the case that an intervention in a certain area will make a difference.
"It may also be the case that we look at restrictions in an area that are not a driver of transmission and that would be an unfortunate impost and unfortunate consequences for every who might be involved there.
"That is really what, looking at the evidence and data is focused on."
WHAT WOULD STAGE FOUR LOCKDOWN LOOK LIKE
Earlier this month, the Premier told Victorians "we're not there yet".
"I can't rule out we have further limits placed on people's movement," Andrews said. I can't rule that out. As I always said, if we're planning for it, we'll share it with the community."
Andrews said the decision was in the hands of hardworking Victorians.
"If you don't want a stage four, if you don't want the lockdown to last a moment longer, then please follow the rules. Do the right thing by your family, your community, and every family," he said.
Since then, Victoria has recorded daily totals and seen its death toll soar. The level of infection as we enter August has experts calling for harsher lockdowns. But what would that look like?
There is no official guide that outlines what measures would be taken if Victoria went to the next phase of restrictions but places like New Zealand have previously introduced what it called level four restrictions.
They included the closure of schools and other educational facilities, and the closure of businesses except essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies and medical clinics.
University of Melbourne Professor Tony Blakely told news.com.au: "If we really wanted to hit this hard we would shut down your construction work, your department stores that are not serving food or medicine. You only leave open supermarkets, your chemists, your rest homes," he said. "But there are huge economic consequences."
University of Melbourne Associate Professor Julian Rait told 3AW: "What New Zealand did for a month is that they closed pretty much all businesses other than pharmacies, medical clinics, grocery stores, petrol stations and really curtailed a lot of retail shopping and a lot of businesses
"That's the model that I would look to and clearly they were able to achieve elimination through that with a month of such measures.
"I am not suggesting that is necessarily possible now in Victoria with the number of cases but I would suggest that stronger measures for a shorter period might be a preferable strategy to months and months of what we have got at the moment."
Prof Sutton is on the same page. He previously told reporters that what worked for New Zealand might not be what Australian chooses.
"To go to a particular model of lockdown that worked for one country at one point in time is not the solution," he said.
"We have to understand what the dynamics of transmission are in Victoria at this point in time.
"It may well be that it's an awful impost on the economy and on people's lives with no material benefit if we go to a New Zealand-style lockdown.
"I wouldn't make assumptions that harder, more constrained lockdown is necessarily the way to go."
ENORMOUS HUMAN CONSEQUENCES
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is aware of what stage four means for Victorians — both on an individual and economic level.
"We know this level has enormous human and economic consequences, whether it's a single parent in a small flat with young kids, whether it's a worker who's been stood down from a particular form of hospitality, a cafe, or a restaurant, whether it's the owner of a beautician salon," Hunt said
"All of these people are doing it tough as it is already. So higher levels of lockdown would mean even greater hardship for individuals, mental health, social isolation, the elderly who'll be isolated. Our goal is to avoid that."
Morrison said on Wednesday there would be "no golden tickets" out of the coronavirus pandemic. He added: "Some days, the virus wins. On other days, we beat it."
Morrison said yesterday many countries around the world were in the midst of combating a second wave — and highlighted the importance of securing a vaccine.
"Whoever finds it, wherever they are, I think there is a global responsibility to share that far and wide," Morrison said.
NEW RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE IN VICTORIA
Currently, Victorians in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire are not allowed to leave the house unless it's for one of four reasons — medical care, shopping for supplies, exercise and work.
Playgrounds are closed, there's no dining in at restaurants, restrictions are placed on the number of people who can attend weddings and funerals and everybody has to wear a mask.
The use of masks was extended on Thursday to include all of Victoria.
On top of that, and in line with the advice of the chief health officer, the Victorian Government announced Victorians living in Greater Geelong, the Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Colac Otway and Borough of Queenscliffe will be banned from having visitors in the home.
"You may still continue to visit your partner, and exemptions continue to apply for care and caregiving reasons," the Department of Health and Human Services said in a media release.
Face coverings become mandatory for all of Victoria from Sunday, too.
"The same lawful exemptions that currently apply in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, will apply across Victoria," the Department said.
"These include if you have a medical condition or other condition that impairs your ability to wear a face covering, doing strenuous exercise or if you are unable to do your job while wearing a face covering.
"People who do not wear face coverings and do not have a lawful excuse can be fined A$200."