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Universities shutter sites amid Melbourne lockdown


City under curfew as Covid-19 cases surge in Victoria

Staff and students have been banned from university campuses amid a lockdown imposed in Victoria this week that includes a curfew in Melbourne from 8pm to 5am.

In response to a surge in Covid-19 cases in the state, with 439 new cases and 11 deaths in the space of 24 hours on Tuesday, Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, has brought in a series of measures to try to get the disease under control.

People are only allowed out once a day for specific reasons such as shopping and exercise, and those suspected of having the virus are not allowed to exercise outside. In addition, everyone has to wear a face mask when they leave their home.

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services has explicitly stated that university study must now be conducted remotely, along with technical and further education.

Researchers are exempt from the restrictions on movement if they are involved in Covid-19 research, hazard monitoring and resilience, biosecurity and public health, “medical or other research where Australia has a competitive advantage, and which cannot be shut down and requires on-site attendance”, or “critical scientific facilities”. University students are able to attend campus “where remote delivery is not possible” for study relating to clinical health and biomedical science, and assessments of safe working practice and infection control.

Universities in the state have been quick to respond.

Victoria University said in a statement: “At this time, VU is only allowing essential and approved work activities to be conducted by staff on campus…The majority of our courses are being delivered in a flexible and remote mode. However, we anticipate that there will be implications for our plans to transition back to Melbourne campuses…at least until 13 September.”

The University of Melbourne said that while those exempt from restrictions could attend, “for all other students, you must not come to campus until you receive further advice from the university to do so”.

Swinburne University of Technology, meanwhile, has moved to restrict access to its Hawthorn, Wantirna and Croydon campuses for a period of six weeks starting from 5 August. “Most students and staff should expect to continue to study and work remotely for the foreseeable future,” it said.

Hundreds of military personnel have been deployed in Victoria to help police ensure the measures are followed. Anyone who repeatedly ignores the rules could face fines of up to $20,000.