One of nine Melbourne public housing towers to remain in strict quarantine due to coronavirus infections

| 09.07,20. 07:49 PM |

One of nine Melbourne public housing towers to remain in strict quarantine due to coronavirus infections

Residents of 33 Alfred St, North Melbourne, will remain in hard lockdown for another nine days.(ABC News: Simon Winter)

One of nine public housing towers placed under "hard lockdown" on Saturday will remain in police-enforced quarantine after a large number of coronavirus cases were found within the units.

The nine towers, home to about 3,000 residents in 1,345 units, were placed in sudden lockdown on Saturday afternoon after tenants contracted the virus.

Premier Daniel Andrews said 2,515 tests had been conducted across the towers since Saturday and 159 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Eight of the towers will move to the same stage three restrictions as the rest of Melbourne from midnight tonight.

But at least 53 infections were detected at 33 Alfred St in North Melbourne, so its residents will all be considered close contacts and stay in quarantine for another nine days to complete a 14-day quarantine period.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there were two or three close contacts for each infected case.

"We need to recognise there might be 20 to 25 per cent of individuals in that particular tower who end up developing coronavirus, and potentially more," Professor Sutton said.

Residents of 33 Alfred St will only be able to leave their apartments for medical care and supervised daily exercise, a slight relaxation of the previous rules.

No cases found in two of nine towers
No cases of coronavirus were detected in the neighbouring 9 Pampas St and 159 Melrose St blocks.

While residents of the other towers will now be allowed to leave their homes for "essential" reasons, those who have tested positive or are considered a close contact are being moved to other accommodation.

Professor Sutton said there would need to be "an intensive monitoring program" for the towers that were moving to stage three restrictions.

He said, despite the extensive testing, he was expecting more cases to appear in the towers.

"But the risk in these settings is not insubstantial so these are proportionate measures," he said.

He said it was not known how residents were initially exposed to the virus, but there might have been "multiple importations".

Infected residents and their close contacts asked to move to hotels

The Government has faced criticism for the sudden deployment of hundreds of police to the blocks on Saturday. Some residents said that made them feel like criminals.

There were also problems with the delivery of food and other essential items to residents.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said a police presence would remain at the towers to ensure public safety.

She said police would also be at the Alfred Street tower to make sure people did not use lifts or shared areas.

"There will be care teams, there will be support teams available to people as they get through a tough nine days," Ms Neville said.

She said people who were required to quarantine because they had a diagnosis or were a close contact of a confirmed case would be encouraged to enter hotel quarantine.

People who choose to move into the hotels will be transported by paramedics.

The state-run hotel quarantine program, used to house returned overseas travellers, has been linked to a number of coronavirus infections after breaches.

A $3 million judicial inquiry will look at how private security guards contracted by the Government caught the virus and spread it to the community.

Ms Neville said there would be regular checks on infected people and their close contacts to make sure they were staying in isolation.


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