Melbourne lockdown
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A sign reading 'Go straight home and Isolate' is seen at the exit of a drive through covid-19 testing site at Highpoint shopping centre on July 04, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.
Covid lockdown measures covering five million residents in Melbourne have been extended for a further seven days, as officials work to "run this thing to ground" and contain a cluster of cases in Australia's second-largest city.

The initial seven-day lockdown imposed on the area had been due to expire at midnight on Thursday but Victoria's acting premier, James Merlino, announced the restrictions would be extended for another week due to concerns over the spread of the Kappa variant.

The initial cluster of cases is thought to have been caused by an individual who arrived in Australia infected with the Kappa variant, a strain first identified in India. The infected individual is believed to have potentially had thousands of close contacts, who have been identified and informed, with 350 cases confirmed so far.

Speaking on Wednesday, Merlino warned that the new variant appears to be "quicker and more contagious than we have ever seen before," with experts linking the variant to multiple clusters in a number of countries worldwide.

"We've got to run this thing to ground, otherwise people will die."

While the stay-at-home order will remain in place across Melbourne, individuals living elsewhere in Victoria will have restrictions such as caps on weddings and funerals lifted, with students in the city allowed to return to take their exams.

To help contain the virus, Australia has retained strict border measures for the majority of the pandemic, requiring arrivals, including Australian citizens, to quarantine upon arrival to reduce the risk of transmission.

Discussing the health guidance throughout the state, Victoria's chief health officer, Brett Sutton, highlighted how quickly outbreaks can spread throughout a region. "There are a dozen countries that had no community transmission going into 2021 that have now lost control," Sutton said.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, Australia has recorded 30,106 cases of the virus and 910 fatalities. The nation of 25 million has had a slow start to its vaccination program, allowing other nations with large case numbers to purchase doses, administering 3,089,183 doses so far.