Victorians have been plunged into a week-long snap lockdown from 8pm tonight, as the state grapples with growing cases of Covid-19.
Residents will only be able to leave their home for five reasons - being to shop for essentials, for authorised work or permitted education, to provide care and for medical and compassionate reasons, to get vaccinated or tested and to exercise for a maximum of two hours.
Speaking to media, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he had "no alternative" but to take lockdown action across the entire state.
"I would prefer we didn't have to make this decision," he said this evening.
"But my fear is if we were to wait a few days … there is every chance, instead of being locked down for a week, this gets away from us, and we are potentially locked down until we all get vaccinated.
"I can't tell you how disappointed I am to have to be here doing this again. But with so few in the community with one vaccination let alone two, I have no choice."
Six locally transmitted cases of the virus were confirmed this morning, with three of those infections under investigation, sending contact tracers scrambling.
Two more cases, which have not been included in today's numbers, were also announced, bringing the total number of new cases to eight.
The rise in cases sparked an urgent meeting between Victorian government officials and health authorities this afternoon.
It is understood the 8pm (10pm NZT) commencement of the state's latest lockdown is in an attempt to stop groups gathering at hospitality and other venues on a usually busy Thursday night.
"This evening please go home, and begin that lockdown," Andrews said.
"Don't be out and about because all you might be doing is spreading the virus."
It comes as New South Wales has recorded 262 new community cases of Covid-19, with at least 43 of those cases infectious while in the community.
Andrews pleaded with anyone in Victoria who has suspected coronavirus symptoms to get tested because, right now, it was unlikely to be anything else.
"If you have symptoms, with so little cold and flu around, if you have symptoms you have got Covid-19.
"That's what you have to assume. That means you have to go and get tested, don't wait an hour or an afternoon, don't wait days. And go to work in the intervening period, you can't do that, that's no good for you and the people you love, no good for the rest of Victoria. In fact, it's very bad."
Andrews said the reason the 7-day lockdown would apply to regional Victoria — despite the new cases being in the city — is because sewerage testing has detected the virus in the state's North-East.
"Wangaratta sewerage test has pinged, firstly positive, then it went negative, now it's gone positive again," he explained.
"We have some reason to believe there is Covid-19 in that community or has been in that community."
Authorities are bracing for a fresh Covid-19 outbreak at Al-Taqwa College, in Truganina, outside Melbourne, amid concerns a teacher, who lives in Hobsons Bay, may have unknowingly been infectious for days.
Urgent genomic sequencing is underway for this case, along with one of their household contacts and a case who lives in Maribyrnong.
Three other cases announced today are close contacts of the Moonee Valley case.
The two new cases that were confirmed after the official reporting period are linked to the Hobsons Bay cluster and are relatives of the partner of the Al-Taqwa College teacher.
Covid response commander, Jeroen Weimar, said more tests results would be in throughout the day and "will inform the next stage of our public health response".
Health minister Martin Foley said earlier: "When we get public health advice on how to respond, we will be sure to share that as quickly as we possibly can with the Victorian people".
Lockdown 6 trending online
Victoria's fifth lockdown ended on July 27 – one which saw the state log six months of lockdown since the start of the pandemic.
Lockdown 6 began trending on Twitter shortly after the case numbers were posted on the social media website this afternoon.
The fifth lockdown was announced on July 14 and on July 15, 10 cases were reported. However, in the days leading up to the lockdown, there was one case recorded on the 14th and two cases reported on the 13th.
Those observations prompted speculation of a sixth lockdown for the state today.
Al-Taqwa College – which recorded 210 cases during Victoria's catastrophic second wave – has again been shut, with the more than 300 staff and 2095 students ordered into immediate isolation.
The female teacher underwent a Covid test on Tuesday and received a positive result on Wednesday, but health investigators believe she may have been infectious since July 28, including three days last week at school.
A football club in Melbourne's west has also been placed on high alert after a Newport Football Club player tested positive on Wednesday.
The player is understood to be a household contact of the Al-Taqwa teacher. The club has not yet been listed as an exposure site while contact tracers work to determine his infectious period.