Daniel Andrews has imposed a night-time curfew on Melbourne and extended the lockdown for two more weeks after criticising the “selfish choices” of people who allegedly breached restrictions to take part in take-away pub crawls, picnics, sleepovers and an engagement party.
The curfew will operate from 9pm to 5am each day and begin immediately. It is the second time Victoria has imposed a curfew to enforce stay-at-home orders – a curfew was also imposed during the stage four lockdown last year.
From 11.59pm on Monday, exercise will be limited to just one other person, except if children are too young to be left at home alone. Playgrounds, skateparks and basketball and tennis courts will be closed. The number of people allowed to work on construction sites will be slashed to 25% on large sites, or to a maximum of five people on smaller sites.
It will be illegal for people to remove their face masks to drink alcohol in public.
From 11.59pm on Tuesday night, people who need to leave home to go to work will have to carry a permit.
The new rules will be in place until at least 2 September, when the extended lockdown is due to expire.
The Victorian premier said he was “angry and disappointed” to see video of an engagement party held in Caulfield North on Wednesday which 69 people attended, including a number of doctors.
“There has been transmission at that event,” Andrews said. “The only question is whether it will be a super-spreader event.”
Three people who attended the party have since tested positive to Covid and health authorities are still waiting on test results for half of the guests.
The Victorian police commissioner, Shane Patton, said every adult who attended would receive a $5,500 fine. “That’s going to be over $350,000 worth of fines,” Patton said. “That’s an expensive engagement party but that’s what we’re going to be doing.”
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency said it would work with police after receiving a “number of complaints” about registered health practitioners who allegedly attended the event.
“Privacy provisions in the health practitioner regulation national law limit what we can say publicly about any action we are or may be taking regarding individual practitioners,” a spokesperson said.
The engagement party, which was held in the house of a senior person in the orthodox Jewish community, was roundly condemned by other people in the Jewish community in Melbourne, including Jewish News and the Council of Orthodox Synagogs Australia.
The family said they had faced cyberbullying since video of the party was shared on social media on Sunday. Andrews said he had no sympathy for people who had broken the rules.
“The notion that you can have a party and not finish up in trouble, well, that’s not a smart judgement,” he said. “You’ll be found, you’ll be fined, and as one particular family is learning, you become famous.”
The premier said: “They’ve done the wrong thing and people have views about that. It’s selfish. They are shitty choices and they will keep us all locked down for longer than we should be. I’m angry, we’re all angry.”
Andrews said the party had created “literally thousands of hours” of “entirely preventable” work for contact tracers, who are still trying to find links between the eight clusters of cases in Melbourne.
There are 90 close contacts and a growing list of exposure sites in Balaclava and Caulfield North linked to the party.
Andrews also criticised pubs and bars which offered take-away drinks that encouraged patrons to loiter nearby, saying Victoria police and the liquor regulator would investigate to see if there had been any breach of liquor licences.
“It’s take-away, not turn around and turn the footpath into a pub. Pubs are shut for a reason. It is not safe for them to be open. It is as simple as that.”
Patton said police would be enforcing the tougher restrictions and no longer be issuing warnings.
The state’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said his advice to tighten the restrictions was “not in response to any single event”.
“We are at the brink and we need to step back from the brink,” he said. “We are maybe just keeping up with this outbreak, but we are not ahead of it in the way that we need to be in order to achieve control.”
Sutton dismissed the suggestion that a 9pm curfew was an unreasonable constraint on people’s freedoms, saying: “The curfew is not the constraint – the stay-at-home direction is the constraint and the curfew supports that.”
He said he was worried that compliance was falling because people were “over” lockdowns.
“There’s such a strong sense that we’ve made such sacrifices and here we are again facing another battle,” Sutton said. “I hope that we can be energised by the success we’ve had in the past and the understanding that it’s absolutely possible, and that getting to an aggressive suppression state again, with no community transmission, means that we can do all the things that we want, against an awful alternative option.”
The alternative, said Andrews, was “what is happening in Sydney”.
“I don’t want us to finish up like Sydney where it has fundamentally got away from them,” the premier said. “They are locked in until they get pretty much the whole place vaccinated. That will take months.”
Victoria reported 22 local cases on Monday, including five mystery cases. Two of those five – a father and son in Altona North – have been tentatively linked back to an existing cluster in Newport.
The other mystery cases include two residents in a public housing tower in Lygon Street. The tower has been listed as a tier-two exposure site, and residents on the same floor as the positive cases have been put into 14 days’ isolation.
Victoria’s Covid testing commander, Jeroen Weimar, said there were positive cases and primary close contacts scattered across Melbourne and more than 14,500 people in isolation, including some in regional areas.