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Victoria in lockdown for seven days

Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria entered from Thursday a one-week COVID-19 lockdown forcing its near seven million residents to remain home except for essential business as authorities struggle to contain a highly infectious outbreak.

Authorities have so far found 26 cases and identified 150 sites where people may have been exposed to the virus.

There is growing anxiety over the outbreak which reminds many locals of a devastating second wave that swept the state last year.

Victoria's acting Premier James Merlino said the outbreak involved a highly contagious strain of the virus, the B.1.617 variant. A returned traveler was infected with the strain, which Mr. Merlino said was spreading "faster than we have ever recorded".

Cases have been found across the state with links to a large number of venues, including packed football games at stadiums in Melbourne.