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Australian prime minister defends Melbourne lockdown to curb spread of COVID-19

FILE - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks in Sydney, 2020, (Peter Parks/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Summary

Melbourne will be locked down for six weeks because rate of coronavirus spread was unsustainable


The federal government’s medical advice agreed with the Victorian government that the move was necessary


Australia’s seven other states and territories will continue to relax pandemic restrictions: PM


CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister said a shutdown of the nation’s second-largest city is necessary and promised to continue financial support for businesses that fear they won’t survive a second lockdown.

The Victoria state government said Melbourne and part of its surrounding area will be locked down for six weeks starting Wednesday night because the rate of coronavirus spread was unsustainable.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government’s medical advice agreed with the Victorian government that the move was necessary.

“I hope it isn’t for that long. I hope it’s for a shorter period as possible,” he said.

Morrison said Australia’s seven other states and territories will continue to relax pandemic restrictions.

Victoria authorities announced 134 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Breaches of infection controls at Melbourne hotels where international travelers are required to isolate for 14 days have been blamed for much of the disease spread. The state government last week responded by banning new arrivals at Melbourne Airport for two weeks.

Morrison said he wanted to reduce the numbers of Australian citizens, permanent residents and foreigners exempt from Australia’s travel ban landing at Australian airports because of the strain on hotel quarantine.