Victoria records 108 new coronavirus infections, locks down suburbs and public housing

| 04.07,20. 07:09 PM |

Victoria records 108 new coronavirus infections, locks down suburbs and public housing

Police arrived at the public housing units on Flemington's Racecourse Road as the announcement was being made.(AAP: David Crosling)

Some 3,000 of Melbourne's "most vulnerable" residents will be locked in nine public housing estates for at least five days due to a coronavirus outbreak.

Premier Daniel Andrews said that in recent days, at least 23 cases had been identified in more than 12 households in the Flemington and North Melbourne public housing estates in inner Melbourne.

Mr Andrews said the nine towers included 1,345 units of housing and were home to about 3,000 residents.

It comes as Victoria recorded its second-highest ever daily increase in coronavirus cases, with 108 people diagnosed with the virus overnight.

Postcodes 3031 — taking in Flemington and Kensington — and postcode 3051 — covering North Melbourne — will be added to the list of suburbs already under stay-at-home orders from midnight tonight.

Under the stage three restrictions, people in the 12 suburbs can only leave the house for four reasons: work or education, exercise, medical care or caregiving or shopping for supplies.

However, those living in the nine public housing estates will be in a "hard lockdown" and not able to leave their residence for any reason.

Making the announcement at 4:00pm on Saturday, Mr Andrews said the new rules were "effective immediately" for the estates.

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There have long been concerns of overcrowding in the densely populated public housing blocks.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen said living in close quarters and sharing facilities made transmission more likely.

"We are extremely concerned that there are many hundreds of people in these towers who have already been exposed to the cases that we've found and possibly to cases that exist and that we haven't found," she said.

"This is not just a matter of 23 to 30 odd people, this is a matter of many hundreds who have already been exposed and who may already be incubating."

Dr van Diemen said the first priority was to find every infection within the towers.

"So that we don't have an explosion of infections in a highly vulnerable community and very high rates of hospitalisations and deaths because of the background health status of a large number of people in these towers," she said.

Victorian Public Tenants Association executive officer Mark Feenane said while COVID-19 did not discriminate based on income or housing tenure, "overcrowded living conditions assist the virus to spread".

"We believe that if Victoria had more public housing, this would be less of an issue," he said.

Acting Australian Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said an emergency teleconference meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee was called for Saturday evening to discuss Victoria's rise in coronavirus cases.

Lockdown could last for up to a fortnight
Four high-rise buildings in Flemington will be subject to the lockdown: 12 Holland Court, 120 Racecourse Road, 126 Racecourse Road and 130 Racecourse Road.

The five estates in North Melbourne are on 12 Sutton Street, 33 Alfred Street, 76 Canning Street, 159 Melrose Street and 9 Pampas Street, a combination of mid-rise and high-rise buildings.

The estates will be fully locked down for at least five days to test everyone and get results back, but the Premier said it could extend for up to 14 days.

Victoria Police will oversee the towers, with at least 500 officers per shift on the job and police stationed on every floor.

The effort will be led by Assistant Commissioner Mick Hermans, who coordinated bushfire evacuations over the summer.


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