Australia's 2nd largest city foils nation's pandemic success

Full Screen
1 / 6

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

A woman looks out a window from a locked-down public housing tower in Melbourne, Monday, July 6, 2020. As Australia is emerging from pandemic restrictions, the Victoria state capital Melbourne is buckling down with more extreme and divisive measures that are causing anger and igniting arguments over who is to blame as the disease spreads again at an alarming rate. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

MELBOURNE – Australia has been among the world’s most successful countries in containing its coronavirus outbreak — with one exception.

The southeastern state of Victoria had some of the nation’s toughest pandemic measures and was among the most reluctant to lift its restrictions when the worst of its outbreak seemed to have passed.

But as most of the country emerges from pandemic restrictions, the virus has resumed spreading at an alarming rate in Victoria’s capital, Melbourne. The city is buckling down with more extreme and divisive measures that have ignited anger and arguments over who is to blame.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that the entire city and some of its surrounds will be locked down again from Wednesday night under tougher restrictions than were imposed during the first shutdown that started in March.

“We are in many respects in a more precarious, challenging and potentially tragic position now than we were some months ago,” Andrews said.

About 3,000 residents of nine public housing high-rise buildings were given just an hour’s notice at the weekend before being prohibited from leaving their apartments for at least five days.

“The amount of police officers makes us feel like we’re criminals,” said a resident of one of the buildings, Nada Osman. “It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. It’s like we’re caged in.”

Forty suburbs that are virus hot spots have been locked down by postal code since last week, with the result that businesses and households in some areas face restrictions while ones across the street from them do not.