By Colin MacGillivray

THE City of Whittlesea will enter stage-four COVID-19 restrictions with the rest of metropolitan Melbourne at midnight tomorrow as it remains one of Victoria’s worst-affected municipalities.

Whittlesea yesterday saw its first drop in the number of active COVID-19 cases for more than a month, but remains a hotspot for the coronavirus.

As of yesterday, the number of active cases in City of Whittlesea was 452 – three fewer than the 455 reported by the Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday.

Whittlesea sits fourth for the most active cases of any local government area in the state, with only Wyndham, 744, Brimbank, 749, and Hume, 488, recording more.

According to the website Epping was the hardest hit postcode within the City of Whittlesea, recording 146 active cases.

Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday confirmed the City of Whittlesea would be part of the metropolitan Melbourne zone moving to stage four restrictions for the next six weeks, starting from midnight tomorrow.

The new restrictions mean many businesses, including retail businesses and parts of the manufacturing and administration industries, will be forced to close or continue on a delivery-only basis with no customer contact.

Operations in industries such as meat production and construction will continue in a scaled-back form.

Businesses staying open include supermarkets and grocers, butchers, bakers, pharmacies, newsagencies, banks, petrol stations and healthcare providers.

Only one member of a household will be allowed out of the house to purchase essential goods each day, and shopping must be conducted within a five-kilometre radius of home.

A curfew will be in place from 8pm to 5am each night to help enforce the restrictions.

Mr Andrews said Melbourne businesses could apply for State Government grants of up to $10,000 to help them through the lockdown period.

“It is a very difficult decision to make, a very challenging decision to make, and I know there will be substantial pain that comes from that,” he said.

“But unless we have literally … hundreds of thousands less movements around the community each day, then we will not pull this virus up and we will not see those numbers reduce.”

Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said the new restrictions were a heartbreaking necessity.

“Our team of public health experts tell us the measures we’ve introduced to slow the spread of this pandemic are working, but too slowly,” she said.

“The current rate of community transmission and cases with unidentified origins is far too high.

“The gravity of the situation is crystal clear. It’s going to be six weeks of great difficulty for us all and I plead with everyone to stick to the rules.

“Staying apart will keep us together. Please be kind, be calm and be careful. Anyone requiring assistance, please contact me via my website”

City of Whittlesea administrator chair Lydia Wilson urged the region’s residents to remain resolute.

“This is sad. This is stressful. This is heartbreaking. But, these extra measures are necessary,” she said.

“We need to be thinking of, and looking out for, the health and safety of our whole community. This of course means protecting ourselves and our families, but also our friends, our neighbours, front line workers, essential workers and the most vulnerable people living in the City of Whittlesea.

“What we can be sure of is that council will continue to deliver essential services to the community and we’ll adapt quickly to any necessary changes. We will also be looking at more ways we can support our local businesses.

“Please stay connected with each other in whatever ways you can – phone, email, social media, video calls, letters, signs of support in your window, or a note in your neighbour’s letterbox asking if they’re okay.”