Thousands of residents in nine public housing towers in Melbourne have been ordered to stay in their homes for at least five days as a coronavirus surge with "explosive potential" continued over the weekend.
Victoria recorded 108 new cases on Saturday and 74 on Sunday, driving the cumulative total of Covid-19 cases in the state to 2536.
Victoria premier Daniel Andrews announced a strict lockdown of the nine public housing estates, which came in to effect at midnight on Saturday. Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to ensure the 3000 residents do not leave their homes unless there is an emergency.
"This is not going to be a pleasant experience for those residents, but I have a message for those residents: this is not about punishment but protection," Andrews said in a televised conference.
Andrews said public health workers would test every resident of the buildings, except those who have previously tested positive.
He told local media that none of the residents would have to pay rent for two weeks, and committed to support payments for those unable to work.
The communal nature of the facilities, which house people on low incomes, has "genuinely explosive potential for the spread of the virus", said Brett Sutton, Victoria's chief health officer.
Early on Sunday, within hours of the lockdown on the public housing towers coming into effect, an AAP photographer captured the police interception of a woman attempting to drive out of the car park of the Flemington estate.
Officers chased the woman's car on foot and one reached inside and seized her jacket as she screamed. She then stopped her car and was taken away, clearly distraught.
In addition to the complete lockdown orders, more than 30 Melbourne suburbs are also under strict social-distancing orders, but people there can leave their houses to go to work, school or to buy groceries.
Thana Sirag, a resident of a tower block in the Flemington estate, told the Telegraph she received an alert that her area would be on lockdown and within hours the situation escalated.
"I heard sirens outside and when I looked out the window I saw flashing blue and red lights and about 30 police cars," she said.
Sirag said police officers told her the lockdown could continue for up to 14 days.
"[I'm] honestly lost for words. We're not allowed to leave the house."
Health authorities have detected at least 27 Covid-19 cases across the North Melbourne and Flemington towers, which are densely populated and include many communal spaces, increasing the risk of transmission among residents.
The state government has committed to delivering food packages and other supplies. Residents took to social media to express their disbelief at the situation, and also noted that some packages, when they arrived, were haphazard. In one example, breakfast cereal was included, but no milk and no bread.
"Those who are employed and because of the hard lockdown cannot go to work, they will receive a $1500 hardship payment. For those households where there is no one in employment, they will receive a $750 hardship payment," Andrews said.
He added: "If we have a large group of people who already have pre-existing and underlying health challenges infected with this virus then people will die. It is as simple as that."