People take photos in front of a 'Welcome Back' sign after coronavirus disease restrictions were eased in Melbourne. File/Reuters
An Australian court on Monday dismissed a challenge to a curfew that was imposed on the city of Melbourne to help curb the spread of COVID-19, ruling it was neither illegal nor irrational and did not violate the state’s human rights charter.
The nightly curfew was initially imposed on Aug.5, running from 8pm to 5am, as part of one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns when the state’s daily infections peaked above 700 cases. The lockdown was relaxed last week, allowing shops and restaurants to reopen and lifting restrictions on leaving home.
The curfew was challenged by Michelle Loielo, whose lawyers called the curfew “a step too far” and said it had drastically hurt business at her restaurant in a beach town near Melbourne.
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“The curfew was reasonably necessary to protect public health,” Justice Tim Ginnane said in his ruling, dismissing the case.
Ginnane said there was no evidence that Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, personally told health official Michelle Giles he wanted her to order the curfew, and that she made the decision independently, as required under the law.
The ruling came after Victoria reported a third straight day of no new cases and no deaths.
Australia’s largest state, New South Wales, on Monday reported one new locally acquired case and six cases in overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.
Australia has fared much better than most other rich nations with the coronavirus, with just over 27,600 cases and 907 deaths.
A fresh COVID-19 cluster linked to a quarantine hotel in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, reached 13 cases as of Thursday midnight as authorities rushed to quash the spread of the virus. Those infections includes the highly contagious UK variant.
Despite a lockdown that began in early July, Melbourne has continued to report hundreds of new cases daily, and authorities said the city's residents would now face a curfew from 8 pm to 5 am for the next six weeks.
Other states and territories have recorded few or zero cases in recent weeks and are continuing to reopen their economies, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison told residents not to become complacent.
Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement on Thursday that “Melbourne — and surrounding Victoria — will join Sydney in locking down, bringing the total number of Australians under stay-at-home orders to around 12 million."
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