Nine high rise accommodation towers in Melbourne, Australia, housing around 3,000 people were placed in immediate lockdown on Saturday, July 4, after it was revealed cases of the CCP Virus were spreading among the residents from some of the towers.
In an extraordinary move, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews ordered the lockdown, to the inner-city apartments, in Flemington and North Melbourne, with no one allowed in or out for almost a week.
“There will be no reason for any of those residents to leave their home for a period of at least five days effective immediately,” he said.
“We don’t take that step lightly. We know and understand it is a big cohort, a big group of people many of whom are amongst the most vulnerable.
“The risk to public health at a personal and family level, the health and wellbeing of those residents who live very close to each other, the fact that there are positive cases in some of those towers and logical patterns of movement, friendship, and family groups mean that the best and most appropriate step is it hard lockdown in those nine towers,” Andrews said.
Hundreds of police enforced ring-fencing around the apartments, with the lockdown in place for at least five days,” said the premier.
Australia’s acting chief medical officer, professor Paul Kelly, made the comparison of the threat of the virus spreading to “vertical cruise ships.”
“Even though they are in two post codes [zip codes] … [the towers] are very close together, there is a lot of intermingling of the people between those towers for work, for family, for community events,” he said.
On Sunday, Victoria recorded 74 new coronavirus cases, after Saturday’s 108 new cases, the state’s second-worst daily count since the pandemic began, reported The Age.
Andrews is pleading with residents to remain calm and has announced a number of concessions and emergency payments for the 3,000 tenants.
Residents have been informed that food and medicine will be supplied to all households involved in the lockdown.
“This is not going to be a pleasant experience for those residents,” Andrews said. “But I have a message for those residents: this is not about punishment but protection.”
“There’s a lot of exchange of individuals between those addresses. So we have to work on the precautionary principle that transmission might have occurred across towers that we haven’t yet had a notified case from,” said Andrews.
The number of infections in the area has been exceptionally high, which has prompted the immediate lockdown. “That’s in part what the hard lockdown is for, to ensure that we’re testing absolutely everyone possible across all of those nine towers,” said the premier.
“I think there’s a not-insignificant chance of finding cases that haven’t yet been identified in some of those towers,” he said.
The premier has announced tenants will not be charged any rent for the period of lockdown, and hardship payments will be handed out.
With many residents in the apartment buildings suffering from pre-existing conditions, the premier has defended his emergency lockdown, as if the virus begins spreading there, “people will die, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
While testing is not compulsory for those in the nine towers, the premier says to refuse the test could mean a longer period in lockdown. “If you were to refuse a test, you would stay locked down in your unit or flat, and the length of that time is something I will get advice from the public health team about,” he said.
“There’s no reason not to be tested,” Andrews said.