Nine public housing estates in inner-city Melbourne have been placed in immediate lockdown as the city grapples with a second spike in coronavirus cases.
Premier Daniel Andrews, who announced the drastic measure on Saturday, said about 3,000 residents will be confined to their units for at least five days.
The enforcement will require an unprecedented level of help from police but Mr Andrews said the residents will be supported and fed throughout the shutdown.
Discussions are also underway about possible rent relief and hardship payments to help the tenants during the dramatic lockdown.
Children are not required to attend school next week as it is still school holidays, the term break ends on Sunday July 12.
The public housing estates are located in Flemington and North Melbourne, two suburbs joining Melbourne’s growing list of COVID-19 hotspots.
Nine public housing estates in inner-city Melbourne have been placed in immediate lockdown
Police speak with residents of one of the towers after the announcement was made on Saturday
Police gather outside one of nine public housing estates on Saturday
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.
‘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.’
Mr Andrews said the ‘matters are not quite settled yet’ and there would be further announcements about the ‘targeted and specific support’ on Sunday.
He added there were ‘many conversations’ with Victoria Police on Saturday to bring the lockdown into effect.
There will be about 500 police officers deployed each shift across the nine towers.
‘There will be a number of VicPol staff on each floor within the towers and a larger number of Victoria Police members will essentially police that hard lockdown at access points to these towers,’ Mr Andrews said.
Local community members will not be allowed to get close to the public housing estates.
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 stand guard at an entry point for one of the nine buildings
‘There will be a cordoning-off, there will be some distance between where members of the general public can go and these towers,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘The police presence and police operation will be unprecedented.’
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.’
Premier Daniel Andrews, who announced the drastic measure on Saturday, said about 3,000 residents will be confined to their units for at least five days. Pictured: One of the towers
Police arrive at the housing estates in Flemington and North Melbourne on Saturday
Within an hour of Mr Andrews’ 4pm press conference, police had swarmed the public housing buildings and blocked all driveways and doorways.
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.
Police are seen enforcing a lockdown at public housing towers on Racecourse Road in Flemington on Saturday
‘They need groceries now. She has nothing to cook tonight,’ Ms God said.
The premier said there are many vulnerable residents who live in the towers.
‘I would ask we all be as sensitive as we possibly can as to the privacy and fragility many of those people will be experiencing right now,’ he said.
‘This is a very significant step, not one we’ve had to take before but it is for the protection of those residents and the broader community that we take this very difficult step.’
Housing Minister Richard Wynne agreed the towers are home to some of the most vulnerable members of the community but said the residents would be looked after throughout the lockdown.
‘I know absolutely that we will do everything that we possibly can to support these people at this very difficult and challenging time,’ he said.
A police officer in a face mask speaks to a driver while enforcing the lockdown at nine housing estates on Saturday
About 500 police officers will work per shift across the nine high-rise buildings
Mr Wynne said conversations about possible rent relief and hardship payments would be held over the coming day.
‘I want to reassure all of our public housing tenants who are affected by this is that we will put in place all of the measures that will be required to support them in the most practical way,’ he said.
‘Whether it is in relation to medical support, whether it is in relation to mental health support, drug and alcohol support.’
Mr Andrews said the organisation of food and supplies had already started.
‘We will make specific arrangements for anybody who needs medical care out of those public housing towers, whether it be physical health, mental health, food, supplies, all of those sorts of issues will be dealt with and we’re confident that we’ve got – that work has already started,’ he said.
The residents will be encouraged to receive a coronavirus test and if they refuse the swab they will likely remain in isolation for 14 days.
It is currently the school holidays in Victoria so students residing in the buildings will not miss out on classes during the lockdown.
The term break ends on Sunday July 12.
Mr Andrews has not addressed how the lockdown would impact residents in their jobs.
Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) announced the immediate measure on Saturday afternoon
A resident holding a baby speaks with two police officers in face masks on Saturday
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 explained 23 coronavirus cases have been recorded across more than 12 households in Flemington and North Melbourne public housing estates in recent days.
Victoria recorded 108 new coronavirus cases on Saturday and stay-at-home orders have been extended for an additional two postcodes.
The two Melbourne postcodes to be locked down from 11:59pm Saturday are 3031 (Flemington, Kensington and parts of Melbourne) and 3051 (North Melbourne) and are the same postcodes as the public housing towers.
There is now a total of 12 postcodes considered COVID-19 hotspots and subject to strict stay-at-home orders.
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