Scenic coastal town along Great Ocean Road has been inundated

Eating, drinking and shopping through the pandemic: How ‘blow-ins’ fleeing Melbourne’s COVID-19 outbreak have seen the population of one Great Ocean Road town surge from 900 to at least 5,000 – and why it’s threatening to tear the town apart

  • The township of Lorne in Victoria’s south is pumping with holiday makers amid the Melbourne lockdown
  • Locals say holiday makers have fled Melbourne to hide in their expensive homes along the coast 
  • Fears the virus will spread to the coastal community as people flock into town despite warnings to stay home
  • Traffic streamed into Lorne on Tuesday night as Melburnians fled the city before road blocks were established
  • Holiday home owners say they are helping to keep the community afloat and have defended their right to stay
  • The influx is causing a civil war among locals and their part-time inhabitants from the infected zones 

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The coastal community of Lorne, along Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road, has been inundated with Melburnians who have fled the city. 

Lorne’s  population, estimated at about 900, is believed to have blown out to about 5000 over the past few days as Melbourne‘s metropolitan area was placed into strict COVID-19 restrictions. 

On Friday, Lorne’s main drag was packed with people eating, drinking, shopping and playing. 

The main strip of Lorne was packed with cars and people on Friday. Some locals have lashed out at holiday home owners who they claim rushed to the coastal town to beat the Melbourne lockdown

The main strip of Lorne was packed with cars and people on Friday. Some locals have lashed out at holiday home owners who they claim rushed to the coastal town to beat the Melbourne lockdown

People flocked to the beach at Lorne on Friday despite the cold conditions. If they were in Melbourne, where locals claim they should be, they would be forced to stay home

People flocked to the beach at Lorne on Friday despite the cold conditions. If they were in Melbourne, where locals claim they should be, they would be forced to stay home

People dine out on the streets of Lorne on Friday. Locals claim the population has climbed by thousands over the past few days

People dine out on the streets of Lorne on Friday. Locals claim the population has climbed by thousands over the past few days 

It comes as Victoria recorded 288 new coronavirus cases, its biggest spike since the pandemic began, with 263 of those cases from unknown sources. Just 26 are connected to known outbreaks and the source of the rest is under investigation.

Premier Daniel Andrews told residents under lockdown in Melbourne that they should wear a mask when leaving their homes for essential reasons.

While temperatures climbed a little higher than 10 degrees in Lorne, people hit the ocean for an afternoon swim and surf. 

People flocked to the beach, with hordes of children gathering at the foreshore playgrounds and its skate park.

Restaurants, cafes and shops along the foreshore were crammed with people. 

Outside, familes and friends sat and enjoyed meals together.

At the Lorne Hotel, people enjoyed the winter sunshine on the top deck of the beer garden with a meal. 

Many tourists from Melbourne continue to travel along the Great Ocean Road, with large crowds witnessed by Daily Mail Australia at Anglesea – a short drive from Lorne. 

A shopkeeper at that town told Daily Mail Australia she hoped the influx of people might disperse by Monday. 

‘There are a lot of blow-ins,’ she said. ‘But we think they might move on.’ 

Further down the track, in Lorne, the influx of people has divided the community, with wealthy holiday home owners being forced to defend themselves from locals. 

Police pulled over people on the Great Ocean Road as they attempted to enter Lorne on Friday afternoon

Police pulled over people on the Great Ocean Road as they attempted to enter Lorne on Friday afternoon

A war of words has erupted on social media among Lorne locals and holiday home owners

A war of words has erupted on social media among Lorne locals and holiday home owners

A civil war has erupted in Lorne where locals claim holiday home owners only came down as the lockdown was announced

A civil war has erupted in Lorne where locals claim holiday home owners only came down as the lockdown was announced

People enjoy a stroll along the rocks in Lorne of Friday. Locals have lashed out at the large crowds that have moved into town over the past couple of days

People enjoy a stroll along the rocks in Lorne of Friday. Locals have lashed out at the large crowds that have moved into town over the past couple of days 

The friction is evident on Lorne social media sites, where a bitter war of words has erupted since the Melbourne lockdown went live at midnight Wednesday. 

Lorne local Mark, who did not wish to provide his surname, said Lorne’s population had exploded. 

‘Lorne has a population of 900 people. Since COVID kicked off it’s been about 5,000. The town can handle that number in holiday time but not all the time,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

‘I’m really concerned about part-time residents from Melbourne coming into town during lockdown. It might be within the rules, but it’s not in the spirit of keeping the community safe.’

Mark said many of the home owners only decided to attend their holiday homes after the Melbourne lockdown was announced.  

‘There was a massive influx of cars coming into town on Tuesday night. Clearly holiday home owners getting in while they could,’ he said.

‘The needs of permanent locals and part-timers are different. Non-permanent residents put a drain on local resources.’

Lorne of Friday was extremely busy for a cold, winter's day, locals say. Thousands have flocked to the coastal town

Lorne of Friday was extremely busy for a cold, winter’s day, locals say. Thousands have flocked to the coastal town

People in Lorne enjoy a meal in the winter sunshine on Friday

People in Lorne enjoy a meal in the winter sunshine on Friday 

Lorne beach on a cold Friday amid a Melbourne lockdown

Lorne beach on a cold Friday amid a Melbourne lockdown

Police have been stopping people coming into Lorne. But lots of people have managed to get through the road blocks, locals claim

Police have been stopping people coming into Lorne. But lots of people have managed to get through the road blocks, locals claim 

On Friday, police continued to stop motorists along the highway from Melbourne into Geelong, but Melburnians were still able to dodge the road blocks by travelling along the ‘Mad Max route’ – the back roads into the area where the classic 1979 movie was filmed. 

Although those travelling towards the Great Ocean Road faced a further road block, with police intercepting the Daily Mail Australia before allowing it to pass. 

Daily Mail Australia has been told some local businesses have turned on each other, with rumours swirling that certain spots are spreading the virus from within. 

Outside the local supermarket, a security guard mans the door as if it was a Melbourne nightclub.

‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ one local told Daily Mail Australia. ‘It’s just weird.’

Holiday home owners have defended their rights to spend time at their homes. 

Some holiday home owners have been living in Lorne since the pandemic hit in March. 

‘We pay rates and have the right to access our property,’ one holiday home owner told Daily Mail Australia. 

Parking spots were limited in Anglesea on Friday too

Parking spots were limited in Anglesea on Friday too

Children at the Lorne skate park and in the background at a trampoline park

Children at the Lorne skate park and in the background at a trampoline park 

The streets of Lorne appeared to be extremely busy on Friday

The streets of Lorne appeared to be extremely busy on Friday 

A security guard has been placed outside the Lorne supermarket

A security guard has been placed outside the Lorne supermarket

A man enjoys a beer with a cockatoo at the Lorne Hotel on Friday

A man enjoys a beer with a cockatoo at the Lorne Hotel on Friday 

Robert – whom also did not wish to give his full name – said business was booming thanks to people like him. 

‘The extra business form holiday home owners is helping the local economy at a time when businesses are closing in Melbourne,’ he said.

‘The town has always been a tourist town. Permanent residents knew that when they moved here.

‘We’re still practising social distancing. We’re just doing so in Lorne instead of Melbourne.’

A sign warns the people of Lorne not to enter the shop if they are sick

A sign warns the people of Lorne not to enter the shop if they are sick

A family enjoys the ocean view in Lorne on Friday

A family enjoys the ocean view in Lorne on Friday 

A jet ski buzzes past Lorne beach on Friday

A jet ski buzzes past Lorne beach on Friday 

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