Victorian childcare centres will be closed to all children other than those of essential workers, Premier Daniel Andrews has announced.
Regional Victoria will enter into lockdown alongside Melbourne and from 1pm Saturday will have the same restrictions as the capital city with the exception of curfew.
As part of the restrictions, all childcare centres in the state will offer its services only to parents who are essential workers whose children cannot be supervised at home.
“We will move to a permit system where only authorised workers will be able to send their kids to childcare and those who have vulnerable children,” Andrews said on Saturday.
“We will work through all the details of that over the course of the weekend.”
The move marks a return to the childcare restrictions of last year, which Andrews described as “challenging but very, very successful”.
“We have got to limit the number of kids that are in our child care centres. We have got to limit the amount of movement that is occurring that involves our smallest children.”
Acknowledging that no parents wanted their children to catch COVID-19, he added that "significant activity and transmission" was being observed in childcare centres.
The permit system for authorised workers was "not a matter of having an argument with your childcare provider", Andrews said.
"You’ll either be eligible or you won’t and you’ll have to attest to that."
The policy will apply to early learning centres, childcare, and family day care centres. Children deemed ‘vulnerable’ will be permitted to continue going to childcare centres.
“We know having childcare centres closed will be difficult for parents who are already juggling so much,” said Minister for Health Martin Foley.
“But with so many young children in this outbreak contracting the virus, we need to do more to protect them and their families.”
Victorian health authorities are also now urging primary school-aged children to wear masks when they are out and about as an additional precaution against the highly contagious Delta strain of COVID-19.
Andrews also noted that metropolitan businesses in ‘high-risk’ industries like meat, poultry, seafood processing and abattoirs will face additional restrictions in the form of workforce limits and “mandatory surveillance testing”.
For regional Victorians, this means there are now only five reason to leave the home: get food and supplies; to exercise up to two hours no more than 5km away from your home; to provide care, authorised work or education that can’t be done at home; or to get tested or vaccinated.
From 11:59pm Monday 23 August, essential workers will need to obtain workforce permits to leave the home to go to work.
The construction industry will see workforce limits apply from 1pm Saturday.
More to come.