Victoria has entered a state of disaster with its major city, Melbourne, under a New Zealand-style stage 4 lockdown from today.
The rest of the state will be under less severe restrictions but they will all last until at least September 13.
Yesterday there were 671 daily cases in Victoria after 397 on Saturday. There were nine new deaths in the state at the weekend and Australia's toll has climbed to 208.
The changes for Melbourne include a night curfew. Residents will only be allowed to shop and exercise within 5km of their homes. That exercise can only be for up to an hour at a time. Only one person from each home will be able to shop at a time, and for once daily.
The rest of the state will be at stage 3 restrictions from Thursday in which restaurants, cafes, bars and gyms will close.
Premier Daniel Andrews said there was an "unacceptably high" number of community transmission cases. The state of disaster gives police greater power and also allows authorities to suspend parliamentary acts.
Melbourne placed under stage 4 lockdown as rest of Victoria moved to stage 3 restrictions https://t.co/dIcUR8vaWE— ABC News (@abcnews) August 2, 2020
The changes illustrate that it is tough to bring an outbreak under control with less than mandatory requirements. If there is any wriggle room, people will find it.
At the weekend state authorities decided to shame people who have breached lockdown rules.
State Police Minister Lisa Neville said: "Can I be really clear, just in case there is any doubt at all, that there is absolutely no reason or need to drive from Melbourne to Wodonga to have a Big Mac."
Australia recorded 417 new cases of coronavirus yesterday - 397 in Victoria, 17 in New South Wales and one each in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. #9News pic.twitter.com/rKrLrlmrbp— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) August 1, 2020
The trip takes more than three hours and 300km by highway.
Another Melburnian got behind the wheel to journey 115km to Ballarat for "fresh air".
In another case a man just had to drive 34km from Thornbury to Werribee to get a haircut from his barber.
The frustration levels at being stuck in a situation they cannot get out of are too much for some people to bear. But they are in a minority.
Of more than 25,000 checks conducted on Saturday, the state police force issued only 168 fines.
Such bizarre breakouts – someone's dash to do something normal that he or she would normally take for granted – should make us all feel relieved to be here.
In England, the British Government is having to stall reopening because the society has got to the limit of what it can safely do without risking a resurgence of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed the easing of lockdown for at least two weeks, saying it's time to "squeeze the brake pedal".
I’m uneasy with characterising these as U turns. Fighting the pandemic requires rapid responses and sometimes reversals. The target of criticism should be the relentless failure to clearly communicate the nature of the threat that makes them necessary https://t.co/9LJ9hrn9uf— Bill Hanage (@BillHanage) August 1, 2020
The number of infections in England is now rising for the first time since May. The Office for National Statistics says new daily cases have climbed from 2000 a month ago to about 4900 now.
This is a different situation to living with the Covid-19 pandemic at its height. Instead it is a twilight time of semi-normality and constant wariness. A regular regime of social distancing and mask-wearing.
For the scientists and politicians it is a juggling act, knowing that easing restrictions gives the virus more room to spread and makes suppressing it harder.
Here, it is a matter of working out the best ways to take advantage of our unusual coronavirus-free zone in the community - and the attention we regularly attract overseas for it.
We are lucky that our normality is the best kind anywhere at the moment.