Families in the nine public housing towers in Melbourne’s inner-city have shared their frustration after they were forced into immediate lockdown for at least five days.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced about 3000 Melburnians would be barred from leaving their homes after Victoria reported 108 new coronavirus infections on Saturday – its second highest daily total ever.
The residents of high density public housing towers in 3031 (Flemington, Kensington) and 3051 (North Melbourne) were not given the opportunity to buy last-minute groceries and supplies ahead of the unprecedented shutdown.
Within an hour of Mr Andrews’ 4pm press conference, police had swarmed the public housing buildings and blocked all driveways and doorways.
Police in face masks block an entry point at one of the public housing towers in Flemington, Melbourne on Saturday
One resident is seen entering their building with groceries from Coles. Others have complained about being unable to head to the shops before the immediate lockdown was announced
Pictured: Police enforce a lockdown at public housing towers on Racecourse Road in Flemington
Two residents in lockdown at 130 Racecourse Road peer out of their window on Saturday
Residents were seen confronting police about why they were being targeted while others sought information from gathered media.
Public housing resident Hoda God, 31, told AAP everyone was surprised by the lockdown and families with young children were already struggling.
‘A lady in the building with three kids, she wanted to get formula,’ she said.
‘The lady needed formula like right now. It’s a bit sad that she can’t even go to Woolies.’
Another woman with a five-year-old child wanted to go shopping for groceries and was told by police she couldn’t.
‘They need groceries now. She has nothing to cook tonight,’ Ms God said.
A woman holds a baby as she talks to two Victoria Police officers outside on of the nine public housing estates on Saturday night
Police speak to a resident after the Victorian Government announced nine public housing estates would be placed in immediate lockdown
The lockdown will require an unprecedented level of help from police but Mr Andrews said the residents will be supported and fed throughout the shutdown.
‘There will be no one going in other than residents who are returning home and no one will be allowed out of those public housing towers,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘There will be a massive logistical task to make sure those people are fed, given the support that they need.
‘I think we’re equal to that task and I don’t for a moment underestimate how challenging, how traumatic in some respects that will be for those 3,000 residents.’
The peak body for the social service sector said any mistakes in the management of the public housing lockdowns could be “horrific”.
Residents there are dealing with trauma from war and domestic violence, mental illness, disability, difficulty with English and unreliable employment, Victorian Council of Social Services head Emma King said.
They must be treated sensitively and be given access to support services and information.
Mr Andrews said the hard public housing lockdowns will affect approximately 3000 residents who live in 1,345 units.
‘You will not be allowed to leave your unit, your dwelling within that tower for any reason,’ the premier said.
About 500 police will be deployed across the nine towers during each shift, or about 55 officers per unit block.
A ‘total’ or ‘hard’ lockdown where residents are completely confined to their homes is a first for Australia during the pandemic.
It has echoes of Wuhan residents being sealed in their homes during the first outbreak of the pandemic.
The announcement raised immediate questions about how residents will meet their basic needs.
Police are seen enforcing a lockdown at public housing towers on Racecourse Road in Flemington, Melbourne on Saturday
Police stand at the front of the housing commission flats in the suburb of Flemington, where a coronavirus outbreak has been recorded
A resident is seen peering through their window after being ordered to stay inside
Police speak to a resident living at the housing commission flats in the suburb of Flemington
Mr Andrews said it would be a ‘major logistical task’ to make sure residents are fed and cared for.
‘We will take care of you,’ he said.
‘Whether it be physical health, mental health, food, supplies, all of those sorts of issues will be dealt with and we’re confident … that work has already started.’
In Flemington, the high density complexes at 12 Holland Court, 120 Racecourse Road, 126 Racecourse Road and 130 Racecourse Road will go into hard lockdown immediately.
Likewise in North Melbourne, 12 Sutton Street, 33 Alfred Street, 76 Canning Street, 159 Melrose Street and 9 Pampas Street will go into hard lockdown also.
Mr Andrews also announced he was extending stay-at-home orders for two further postcodes.
Those two post codes will be ordered to stay at home under standard conditions, where they may leave home to buy food, go to work, seek medical assistance or care for others.
That ‘normal’ lockdown begins from 11.59pm on Saturday night.
Two residents look on from their window as they are placed in immediate lockdown on Saturday
About 500 police will be deployed across the nine towers during each shift, or about 55 officers per unit (Pictured: A group of officers outside public housing towers on Racecourse Road)
TOTAL LOCKDOWN: These public housing tower at 12 Holland Court Rd and 120 Racecourse Rad, Flemington will go into a ‘hard’ lockdown where residents will be confined to their homes
COVID-19 drive-thru test queues at a Melbourne shopping centre on Saturday. There are now 38 suburbs under stay at home orders, plus nine public housing towers in hard lockdown
Police officers on patrol the hotspot suburb of Glenroy in Melbourne on Saturday
A resident at the housing commission flats in the suburb of Flemington looks out of their window
A ‘total’ or ‘hard’ lockdown where residents are completely confined to their homes is a first for Australia during the pandemic
A police officer speaks to a driver entering the housing commission flats in the suburb of Flemington
Mr Andrews explained 23 coronavirus cases have been recorded across more than 12 households in Flemington and North Melbourne public housing estates in recent days.
‘This represents a challenge we’ve not yet encountered. This is not like an outbreak spread across multiple homes or multiple suburbs,’ he said.
‘The close confines and the shared community spaces within these large apartment blocks means this virus can spread like wildfire.
‘And just like fire, we need to put a perimeter around it to stop it from spreading.’
The remaining residents in postcodes 3031 and 3051 must ‘stay at home’ wherever possible.
Premier Daniel Andrews made the dramatic announcement at a press conference on Saturday
In Flemington, the high density complexes at 12 Holland Court, 120 Racecourse Road, 126 Racecourse Road (pictured) and 130 Racecourse Road will go into hard lockdown immediately
Mr Andrews explained 23 coronavirus cases have been recorded across more than 12 households in Flemington and North Melbourne public housing estates in recent days. Pictured: 130 Racecourse Road Flemington which is in immediate lockdown
Pictured: Pop up testing centre in the hotspot suburb of Brunswick West on Saturday
A general view of Racecourse Road in Flemington, Melbourne, on Saturday, as it’s announced the suburb will be put into lockdown
‘There’s only four reasons to be out. Again, shopping for food and essential items. Care and caregiving. Exercise. Work and study – if you can’t do it from home,’ he said.
VICTORIA’S HARD LOCKDOWN
Nine public housing towers in Melbourne are in immediate lockdown for at least five days.
Flemington: The high density complexes at 12 Holland Court, 120 Racecourse Road, 126 Racecourse Road and 130 Racecourse Road.
North Melbourne: 12 Sutton Street, 33 Alfred Street, 76 Canning Street, 159 Melrose Street and 9 Pampas Street.
Premier Daniel Andrews said 23 coronavirus cases have been recorded across more than 12 households in Flemington and North Melbourne public housing estates in recent days.
‘These postcodes are experiencing elevated community transmission – and the only way to combat that is with stronger restrictions.
‘But it’s not just enough to impose them. We need people to abide by them. To follow the rules. To listen to the advice.’
Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Emma King called the move ‘dramatic’ but important.
She said they will work with tenants to ensure support services can be accessed.
‘If we get this wrong, the consequences will be horrific.
‘Some public housing tenants have fled war or family violence.
‘Some are dealing with mental health challenges. Many don’t speak English as their first language. Many others work casual or insecure jobs.
‘This lockdown will scare many people, and trigger memories of past trauma.
‘Being told you cannot leave your house, or seeing police on your doorstep, can be quiet confronting.
‘Being cut off from outside support services and family networks will also be damaging for many people.’
Victoria has only reported a bigger spike once before, with 111 coronavirus infections on March 28, during the height of the pandemic.
A boarded up St Vincent’s De Paul op shop in the locked down hot spot of Glenroy
Mr Andrews announced he was extending stay-at-home orders for two further postcodes 3031 (Flemington, Kensington) and 3051 (North Melbourne)
‘As these figures show, we are still on a knife’s edge. Rather than spread across the state, we know many of these cases are located in specific communities,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘That means the need for targeted, swift action is stronger than ever before.’
There are 509 active cases with 25 people in hospital and three in intensive care.
There are now 38 Melbourne suburbs in localised lockdowns after massive outbreaks in the city’s northern and western suburbs.
Pictured: Health workers are seen at a coronvirus testing clinic in Brunswick West, Melbourne, on Saturday
Dozens of Melburnians line for a COVID-19 swab in Brunswick West on Saturday
It comes amid growing fears the pandemic will easily spread around the country from the nation’s second biggest city.
Already on Saturday, a traveller from Melbourne on board an XPT train was detained after suffering COVID-19 like symptoms.
It comes as two Kmart stores, in Barkly Square, Brunswick, and another in Footscray closed after staff members tested positive on Saturday.
Both discount variety stores are being closed for deep cleaning.
Which suburbs are in lockdown?
3012 – Brooklyn, Kingsville, Maidstone, Tottenham, West Footscray
3021 – Albanvale, Kealba, Kings Park, St Albans
3032 – Ascot Vale, Highpoint City, Maribyrnong, Travancore
3038 – Keilor Downs, Keilor Lodge, Taylors Lakes, Watergardens
3042 – Airport West, Keilor Park, Niddrie
3046 – Glenroy, Hadfield, Oak Park
3047 – Broadmeadows, Dallas, Jacana
3055 – Brunswick South, Brunswick West, Moonee Vale, Moreland West
3060 – Fawkner
3064 – Craigieburn, Donnybrook, Mickelham, Roxburgh Park, Kalkallo
FROM 11.59 ON SATURDAY JULY 4:
3031 – Flemington, Kensington
3051 – North Melbourne