New Zealand extends pause on travel bubble with Australia's Victoria state_china

Victoria to enter snap seven-day lockdown

Victoria state has put in place a seven-day lockdown effective from midnight Thursday, while local residents were required to stay home except for essential business after a fresh outbreak of local transmissions.

Five million people in Melbourne were ordered into a snap week-long lockdown Thursday, with officials blaming Australia's sluggish vaccine rollout and hotel quarantine failures for yet another virus outbreak in the country's second-biggest city.

The restrictions mean people can leave their homes for only five reasons: shopping for food, attending authorised work or study, exercising (with one other person), providing care, and getting vaccinated. That lockdown lasted for 111 days.

Unless there is a drastic improvement in the Melbourne situation, the affected teams will need to either be in NT quarantine, or be in another jurisdiction that has free access to the NT, by June 3.

"In the last day, we've seen more evidence we're dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern, which is running faster than we have ever recorded".

As of Thursday, there were now 34 active cases in Victoria, with 12 new cases linked to the South Australian hotel quarantine breach.

"If we had an alternative to hotel quarantine for this particular variant of concern, we would not be here today", Merlino said.

"If people get vaccinated, it keeps our community safe".

"Restaurants, pubs, and cafes can provide takeaway only", Merlino said.

So far, more than 70 exposure sites have been confirmed, with nine new locations reported overnight, including at places like football venues and nightclubs.

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One of those cases is on a ventilator in an intensive care unit, he added.

The man, in his 60s, could be the possible "source case" of the Whittlesea outbreak, although a definitive link is yet to be established.

New Zealand has already suspended its travel bubble with Victoria and while residents are now being shut out of other Australian states, prompting major airlines to slash Melbourne services.

The United Kingdom's vaccine rollout was hastened in early 2021 after the number of new cases surged - hospital beds were full and residents were forced to endure a grueling lockdown.

The virus has leaked out 17 times in six months, according to the federal opposition Labor party, which has slammed the conservative government for refusing to overhaul the system.

That figure should now increase with Merlino announcing on Thursday that every Victorian aged 40 to 49 would be immediately eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, while those aged over 50 would still be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison batted away the criticisms, saying "no system is foolproof" and pointing to Australia's comparatively successful coronavirus response globally.

Additional vaccine doses were also being sent to Victoria.

"I really encourage everyone, if you're eligible, get vaccinated", Mr Merlino said.

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