Housing commission residents in Melbourne say they are running out of food one day after they were placed into lockdown to curb a second wave of coronavirus that threatens to derail Australia’s economic recovery.
Abdi Ibrahim, 27, who lives in a subsidised three-bedroom apartment at Flemington, questioned how he was going to feed his wife and five children after his building was one of nine placed into strict lockdown on Saturday.
‘When you have five kids under the age of five, we need milk and baby formula,’ he told The Australian.
Residents appeared in the windows of the housing commission to protest their lockdown. Pictured: a man gestures with crossed arms at Flemington public housing flats on Sunday
A firefighter drives away from the Flemington housing commission tower on Sunday. Only essential services are allowed in or out for five days, minimum, to test all residents
‘What are we going to eat, what are we going to cook? We are so isolated … it’s like a prison.’
Nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne were locked down from 4pm on Saturday, with 500 police stationed across every floor.
Nobody is allowed in or out of the buildings except to deliver essential supplies and services.
The sudden move was deemed necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus after more than 23 cases were found across a dozen households.
Window protests: residents posted signs in the windows. ‘Flemington penitentiary’ this one ‘reads, at the Flemington housing commission flats on Sunday
‘Treat us as humans, not caged animals, end this lockdown, effective immediately’ read these four signs in the subsidised housing block close to Melbourne’s inner city
An estimated 3000 residents have been affected by the lockdown, which will last for at least five days.
Australia’s federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has labelled the housing commission towers ‘vertical cruise ships’ – a reference to the Ruby Princess outbreak.
He threw his support behind the Victorian government on Sunday saying the virus was rapidly spreading by community transmission at a rate not seen before in Australia.
‘They are doing a fantastic job but this is a huge effort,’ he said, adding everyone in Melbourne should get tested for the deadly virus.
‘Right around the country we are offering and providing substantial support to our Victorian colleagues.’
How Victoria’s second wave threatens to stall Australia’s economic recovery
The new Deloitte Access Economics Business Outlook released on Monday predicted Australia’s economic growth will shrink by 3 percent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Fast Crisis, Slow Recovery report said Victoria would likely be hardest hit, losing up to a quarter of its GDP after the new coronavirus outbreak forced mass lockdowns.
Deloitte spokesman Chris Richardson said Victoria’s dependence on mass migration and foreign students had left its economy exposed and vulnerable.
‘Population, once a key growth engine, has well and truly stalled.’
The Deloitte report said downturns in migration, international border closures and unemployment would hamper Australia’s economic recovery.
Construction, tourism, professional services and aviation would be hard hit, Deloitte said.
The report said there would be 55,000 net migrant arrivals in 2020-21, 150,000 in 2021-22 and 235,000 in 2022-23.
Economist Leith Van Onselen, who has worked for both Treasury and Goldman Sachs, has written extensively about Australia’s over-reliance on mass migration as an artificial driver of the economy, calling it a ‘ponzi scheme’.
The Government should instead take advantage of the forced break imposed by the coronavirus to restructure the economy.
He said governments should take advantage of current low borrowing rates to build infrastructure, creating much-needed jobs for citizens.
‘Not only would this help overcome Australia’s massive infrastructure deficit brought about by 15 years of mass immigration, but would also help stimulate the economy during a period of weak private demand and high unemployment,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
Mr Van Onselen said the nation-building benefits would be undone if the government reverted back to mass migration.
This view has been echoed by Digital Finance Analytics economist Martin North who warned the construction sector had been lobbying for massive migration levels to artificially prop up demand, despite the pandemic.
Businessman Dick Smith and economist Judith Sloan have also written about Australia’s over-reliance on mass migration, with Ms Sloan warning about the University sector’s dependence on foreign students, most of whom are seeking permanent residency.
Deloitte’s Chris Richardson said the federal government would need more packages similar to its infrastructure stimulus package, and construction industry booster to ensure that too much support did not end at the same time as the Jobkeeper subsidy.
Healthcare workers carry boxes to high rise housing commission on Sunday during lockdown
Public housing resident Najat Mussa (pictured) shared social media photos from the lockdown
One of the care packages of food delivered by police to the housing commission residents on Saturday night. Residents complained they didn’t get milk and bread, however more supplies are coming
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said residents would be given food, free rent, baby formula, pet food and medical essentials.
They will also be provided with counselling, treatment for drug and alcohol addiction including methadone for registered addicts, mental health care, family violence counselling and physical healthcare.
‘This is not going to be a pleasant experience for those residents but I have a message for those residents: this is not about punishment but protection,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘We cannot have this virus spread.’
Translators will be doorknocking to explain directions to tenants who don’t speak English.
Some residents of the public housing estate are employed and they will receive a $1500 hardship payment to compensate for missing work.
A crowdfunding campaign for residents by Victorian Trades Hall Council had raised more than $250,000 by Sunday afternoon.
However residents have already begun complaining, shocked by their sudden forced quarantine.
Signs were pinned to the windows at the Flemington tower. One said ‘Flemington penitentiary’, while others said: ‘Treat us as humans, not caged animals, end this lockdown, effective immediately’.
At a North Melbourne housing commission tower, a woman held a sign which simply said: ‘Help’.
A man shouted that he was hungry and needed food from the window of a neighbouring tower.
On Saturday night, police brought in boxes of supplies for residents with more on the way.
Medical workers and police outside Flemington public housing flats on Sunday
Police carry bags of groceries from Aldi towards the housing commission towers at Sutton St, North Melbourne, on Sunday. Some residents yelled out the window that they were hungry and had no food – after just one day of lockdown
A man hoping to deliver food to family talks to police at public housing towers on Racecourse Rd, Flemington on Sunday. Residents complained their essential food boxes on Saturday had no milk or bread
Public housing resident Najat Mussa shared photos to social media of one box showing canned food including baked beans, tuna, pasta, apple juice, jam, weetbix, flour and muesli bars.
‘Weet-bix with no milk, tuna with no bread, this is what we are given,’ the picture had written on it.
Angry residents were caught surprised and unprepared for the lockdown, and have issued a list of demands, saying they should be able to leave their homes for essential reasons.
Within hours of the lockdown being announced on Saturday, residents of the nine housing commission towers began circulating a list of demands including that they not be locked down
A man looks down at the street from the Sutton St housing commission where he is locked in
While the lockdown is initially for five days as all residents are tested for coronavirus, any who refuse to be tested will be detained for a further 10 days according to a letter distributed throughout the towers.
‘This detention will be required because, having regard to the medical advice, this further detention is reasonably necessary for the purpose of eliminating or reducing a serious risk,’ the letter said.
Five hundred police are guarding every entrance and exit, and every level of the building to ensure no gatherings are held and nobody leaves.
Police patrol a checkpoint at the entrance to the Racecourse Road community housing tower in Melbourne on Sunday. Residents are to be given food, cash, free rent, baby formula, medical supplies, counselling, translators, domestic violence specialists, drug and alcohol counselling and methadone for registered addicts
A total of 500 police have been put on rotation to patrol the lockdowny, one for every six residents. Pictured: Police on foot patrol at Flemington on Sunday
Pictured: the housing commission flats at Flemington shortly after the surprise lockdown was enacted on Saturday
Pictured: a view of one of the nine housing commission flats under coronavirus lockdown, this one at Flemington in Melbourne’s inner northwest
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 8,449
New South Wales: 3,419
Western Australia: 618
South Australia: 443
Australian Capital Territory: 108
Northern Territory: 30
TOTAL CASES: 8,449
CURRENT ACTIVE CASES: 563
Residents in the public housing buildings say they have been left confused after they were handed a document stating lockdown is for 14 days not five.
A four-page letter providing directions of Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen was handed to residents on Sunday.
Thana Sirag, who lives with her parents in one of the Flemington buildings, said police knocked on her door on Sunday night stating the lockdown was for 14 days.
‘We haven’t received any care packages at all,’ she told AAP.
‘We do have milk and bread, but if we are going to be in lockdown for 14 days, which is what we have been told, it is not going to last that long.’
Ms Sirag said she just wants to be treated like everyone else.
‘If we were to be treated like everybody else, we would be understanding,’ she said.
‘We are put under much more severe circumstances than everyone else, we are being treated like prisoners.’
CORONAVIRUS IN AUSTRALIA: THE LASTEST
* Australia has 94 new cases, with 74 of those recorded in Victoria on Sunday.
* Residents of the inner Melbourne public housing estates put under a hard lockdown will have their rent waived and receive a hardship payment. A total of 27 cases have been detected in the nine towers which are home to 3000 people.
* Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has defended the decision to lock down the North Melbourne and Flemington housing estates as necessary to protect residents as the state tries to quell its coronavirus resurgence.
* The Australian Medical Association has called for a temporary pause in the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the country until Victoria gets its outbreak under control.
* NSW has recorded 14 new coronavirus cases, but all were returned travellers from overseas who are now in hotel quarantine.
* A Queensland nightclub operator could cop a hefty fine after video emerged of a packed dance floor with next to no social distancing.
* Victoria’s coronavirus crisis, the lack of a solid lead from the US, and a Reserve Bank meeting on Tuesday are likely to contribute to a weaker start for Australian shares.
* Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs have begun the exodus of clubs out of Victoria amid the state’s COVID-19 spike. All 10 Victorian teams will play interstate in round six, with the league establishing hubs in Queensland, Western Australia and the NSW.
* American Frances Tiafoe has become the latest prominent tennis player to test positive for coronavirus. World No.1 Novak Djokovic and several others tested positive earlier this month after playing in an exhibition event in Europe.
EASING OF RESTRICTIONS
* July 10 – Queensland to reopen borders to all visitors except Victorians, who must undergo mandatory hotel quarantine for two weeks at their own expense.
* July 17 – NT to reopen its borders.
* July 18 – WA to lift all remaining virus restrictions except border closures.
* July 24 – Tasmania to reopen its borders.
AUSTRALIAN CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
* Australia has recorded 8449 cases in total, with 946 active cases and 7399 people recovered.
* The national death toll is 104: NSW 51, Victoria 20, Tasmania 13, WA 9, Queensland 6, SA 4, ACT 3. (Two Queensland residents who died in NSW have been included in the official tolls of both states)
Source: Data current as of 6pm AEST Sunday July 5, taking in federal and state/territory government updates
GLOBAL CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
* Cases: 11,453,280
* Deaths: 534,862
* Recovered: 6,482,268
* Sick: 4,436,150
Source: Global coronavirus numbers from Worldometers as at 2am AEST Monday, July 6