Victoria will be plunged into a seven-day lockdown from tonight after the state's Covid-19 outbreak rose significantly overnight.
Acting Victoria Premier James Merlino said this afternoon the state would go into a "circuit-breaker" lockdown from midnight until Friday morning next week, with only five reasons to leave the house.
Those five reasons include to get food and supplies, authorised work, care and caregiving for medical reasons, exercise for up to two hours each day with one other person, and getting vaccinated.
It is the fourth time Melbourne has been placed in a lockdown.
Merlino said the Indian variant was very contagious and there were more than 10,000 primary or secondary contacts of cases in the current cluster. Eleven new cases were announced today, bringing the total in the cluster to 26.
"Our primary concern is just how fast this variant is moving," he said.
He said contact tracers were "identifying and locking down the first ring, second ring, and third ring" of contacts within 24 hours.
"It is the fastest our contact tracers have ever moved," he said. "But this variant is moving faster than ever. The time between catching the virus and passing it on is tighter than ever. In just 24 hours the number of cases has doubled. Unless something drastic happens, this will become increasingly uncontrollable."
The lockdown will be in place until 11.59pm on June 3, with the following restrictions also coming into effect:
• People must remain within a 5km radius of their home when shopping or exercising, unless their closest shops are further away.
• Masks must be worn everywhere other than the home, both indoors and outdoors, unless an exemption applies.
• There are to be no visitors at home unless it is an intimate partner. Single bubbles will be permitted, with people living alone allowed to make a bubble with one other person.
• Public gatherings will be banned and public venues closed.
• Restaurants, pubs and cafes can provide takeaway only.
• Essential retail - supermarkets, food stores, petrol stations, banks, bottle shops and pharmacies - can open; other retail stores can provide click and collect.
• Schools will move to remote learning, except for vulnerable children and children of authorised workers.
• Funerals will be limited to a maximum of 10 attendees while weddings cannot proceed unless end of life or deportation reasons apply.
• Approved professional sporting events will proceed but crowds will not be permitted.
Merlino said with 10,000 primary and secondary contacts of the cluster, it was imperative to act now.
"If we make the wrong choice now, if we wait too long, this thing will get away from us," Merlino said.
Merlino pleaded with Australians to get vaccinated, suggesting the current spike in cases — and the resulting lockdown — could have been avoided if more Aussies got the jab.
"The vaccine rollout has been slower than we have hoped," he said. "If more people were vaccinated, we might be facing a very different set of circumstances than we are today.
Vaccinations at state sites are being expanded to people aged over 40 from tomorrow.
"If you are eligible get vaccinated," Merlino said adding that Victoria was in this position as a result of the hotel breach in South Australia.
"The only way to get through this is for everyone getting vaccinated as soon as they are eligible."
He said the public health advice was that seven days were needed to get on top of the outbreak.
Victoria's Covid-19 outbreak has risen significantly overnight, with the state's cluster now at 26 cases.
One of the 12 cases confirmed by the Department of Health was reported on Tuesday, meaning there were 11 new infections recorded overnight.
One of those is in intensive care on a ventilator.
More than 40,000 test results were received overnight, with the state's active cases now sitting at 34.
A statement from the New Zealand Ministry of Health this afternoon said health officials were in close contact with counterparts in Victoria following the lockdown announced today.
A spokesperson said it was "crucial" everyone who has been in Victoria since May 11 was checking Victoria Health's website for locations of interest.
Anyone who had been at a location of interest at the specified time must immediately self-isolate and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453. Anyone with symptoms who had been in the wider Melbourne area since May 11 should also ring Healthline and arrange a test. People who had been in the Whittlesea local government area since May 11 should also ring Healthline.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said it was "critically important" people record their movements here and scan QR codes in the event that positive cases were found in New Zealand.
On Tuesday Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced a pause on New Zealand's travel bubble with Victoria effective from 7.59pm NZ time.
The pause is effective for 72 hours initially but would be under constant review.
Closing New Zealand's travel bubble with Victoria was the "right thing to do", Professor Michael Plank says, who adds that it should remain shut for as long as needed.
Government officials in Australia met late into Wednesday night to debate the state's next move, with further meetings held this morning to nail down details of the lockdown.
There are now 79 "exposure sites" visited by the cases - including a McDonald's, Anytime Fitness gym and a Kmart among a long list of new venues added to a list of exposure sites, which has now risen to 79.
Of particular concern to authorities is a bar crawl an infectious person went on in South Yarra and Prahran on Saturday night until the early hours of Sunday morning.
As contact tracers do their best to trace everybody who has come into contact with the confirmed cases, exactly how the outbreak began is still a mystery.
Meanwhile other Australian states are introducing restrictions on inter-state travellers in response to the cluster in Melbourne.
Western Australia has become the second state behind South Australia to put up a hard border with Victoria after the state the lockdown.
What do we know so far?
Genomic sequencing has confirmed the cases that are popping up around Melbourne all stem from South Australia's hotel quarantine system.
Earlier this month, Victoria's health authorities put out location alerts out for six potential Covid-19 exposure sites.
This was triggered by the movements of a man who completed his hotel quarantine in South Australia returned to Victoria and tested positive. It became known as the Wollert case, after the suburb on Melbourne's northern fringes.
Three of the man's household contacts returned negative test results, there was no lockdown and life resumed as it was before.
Seemingly a bullet had been dodged, but now it's clear that something has gone wrong.
Having linked the current outbreak back to this single traveller, authorities say there is still a "missing link".
Health authorities in Victoria are trying to find out how the Wollert case is connected to the current outbreak, but it is proving difficult given the traveller may have infected someone who did not develop symptoms and, therefore, didn't get tested.
Cases suddenly appear
The first case to be discovered in Melbourne in the current outbreak was a man in his 30s, who got tested on Sunday, but that certainly doesn't mean he was the first to be infected.
As far as we know so far, the fifth case to be picked up, a man in his 60s, was the first to become infectious.
He first displayed symptoms of coronavirus on May 17 and got tested on May 24.
He met up with the man in his 30s for a business meeting on May 18 — which is how health officials believe the virus was passed on.
The man in his 30s unknowingly passed the virus on to four members of his household, including a preschool child, a grandfather in his 70s and a woman in her 70s.
Those were the four cases that were announced on Monday. With the man he met being reported on Tuesday morning that brought the total number of cases in that 24-hour period to five and triggered new restrictions.
The man in his 70s is the case who visited Highpoint Shopping Centre on May 20 which led to a number of exposure sites there.
Cases start to spread
It has become clear that the outbreak is spreading further afield — with 10 new infections confirmed yesterday and 11 today.
The outbreak is concerning authorities because one of those new family cases went to work at a finance firm, Stratton Finance, in Port Melbourne — where five further people have been infected in the latest figures.
It shows that the outbreak is moving beyond Melbourne's northern suburbs where it was first detected, and officials are frantically chasing down contacts of those who work at the finance firm.
Stratton Finance executive director Toby Simmons told the AFR the company has up to 100 people in the head office but there were far fewer people attending this week.
He said all staff who attended the office have been notified, tested and are self-isolating. The company, located on Williamstown Rd, specialises in car, boat and caravan finance.
Another case was picked up in the past 24 hours — a contact of the man in his 30s who was the first case to be picked up.
Critical 24 hour phase
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Acting Premier James Merlino revealed he was "very concerned" about the spike in cases, prompting further fears Melbourne could be sent into a snap lockdown.
A raft of new restrictions were introduced across Greater Melbourne on Tuesday, but Merlino warned the Government hadn't ruled out taking further action.
"I want to be upfront with everyone this morning – I cannot rule out taking some further action, but we'll update people as soon as we know," he said.
"It's good that everyone is linked at the stage, but we are concerned about the number, and also about the kind of exposure sites, and the next 24 hours are going to be pretty critical if we're going to make any further changes beyond the changes that we announced [Tuesday]."
Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakey told radio station 3AW the situation has, in a short period of time, "really escalated to become quite concerning" and things were now "really serious".
"I'm expecting that we will see significant increases in restrictions announced soon. We do unfortunately have a problem on our hands," he told the radio show.