The nine public housing towers where 3,000 Melburnians are in lockdown are incubators for coronavirus, experts warn.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly compared the high-rise buildings to cruise ships, as the virus can easily spread due to a large number of people crammed together.
‘There are people living in large concentrations,’ he said.
‘These are vertical cruise ships, we need to take particular notice and pay particular attention to make sure the spread is minimised.’
Members of Victoria Police wear masks as they patrol the grounds around the Flemington Towers Government Housing complex on Monday
The Ruby Princess docks at Port Kembla, Wollongong, south of Sydney, in April. There are 22 coronavirus deaths connected to the cruise ship
Professor’s Kelly’s comments seemingly refer to the Ruby Princess outbreak.
Australia’s coronavirus infections jumped rapidly in March and April as thousands of holidaymakers disembarked from the Diamond Princess, Ruby Princess and Ovation of the Seas cruise ships.
The Ruby Princess, which docked in Sydney on March 19, was the source of more than 600 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths.
More than 2,700 guests were controversially allowed to disembark without adequate health checks.
The Victorian government moved to lock down nine inner-city towers in Flemington and North Melbourne with immediate effect on Saturday.
The 3,000 residents are not allowed to leave their apartments for any reason for at least five days.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly compared the high-rise buildings to cruise ships, as the virus can easily spread due to a large number of people crammed together. Pictured: A resident looks out the window of her apartment at the North Melbourne Public housing flats on Sunday
Pictured: The Ruby Princess cruise ship departs Port Kembla in Wollongong in April
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the towers have almost doubled, from 27 on Sunday to 53 on Monday from about 400 tests.
Infectious diseases expert Sharon Lewin told ABC Radio Melbourne that overcrowded apartment blocks could be a ‘recipe for transmission’.
‘When you get very dense housing, it becomes very hard to physically distance and stop any spread,’ she said.
There are typically nine units on each floor of the towers and the units are small in size.
A large number of residents are also required to share laundries and lifts.
UNSW epidemiology professor Marylouise McLaws said residents who test positive to COVID-19 should be removed from the towers for their quarantine.
‘Absolutely everyone should be tested and everyone who is positive should be removed from those towers,’ she told AFR.
‘This needs to be done ethically and sensitively with a full explanation to those who are infected why they should be isolated.’
Professor McLaws said infected people in high-rise towers in China and Singapore were removed and isolated elsewhere.
Police stand guard at one of nine public housing estates locked down due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne
The Melbourne Public Tenants Association, on behalf of the 3,000 residents in the Flemington and North Melbourne estates, say residents have been left in the dark since the state government’s hard lockdown was enforced.
In a letter addressed to the Acting Chief Medical Officer, the Department of Health and Human Services, Premier Daniel Andrews and Victoria Police, the association describes how residents were forced to wait 24 hours for food and other essentials like baby formula, nappies and medication.
When food arrived they said it was ‘at best, questionable pre-packaged meat-like food items that does not look suitable for human consumption’.
‘Furthermore, the delivery of the food was tossed to the floor on a single piece of paper in front of the residents’ apartment doors in small portions of one food item per household,’ the letter read.
Residents say much of the government-provided food is out-of-date, insufficient or culturally inappropriate, such as pork being provided to Muslim families.
Residents in lockdown in inner-city Melbourne look out their window on Monday