Forced lockdowns and restrictions have been re-instated in parts of Victoria following a second spike in coronavirus cases. With each postcode subjected to different levels of regulations, the lockdowns have also shone a light on the poor living conditions in nine public housing towers where the outbreak is currently occurring.
As 127 new cases were announced in Victoria this morning, it’s been revealed that the NSW/Victorian border will close from Tuesday night.
Whilst the NSW/VIC border prepares to close, 3,000 public housing residents in Melbourne are under “hard lockdown”, unable to leave their houses for 5 days.
After 24 cases were identified amongst the public housing towers last week, the nine high-rises were placed into “hard lockdown.” Essentially this means that no one is permitted to leave their unit block unless permission is granted by authorities, for circumstances including medical assistance, compassionate reasons or in an emergency. Food and water are being provided in the form of “care packages” which are funded and organised by the government. Hardship payments to assist financially are also being discussed.
At face value, this doesn’t seem too bad – besides being confined to your tiny apartment for five days (this time period is rumoured to be extended to 14 days), possible job loss for residents, and the inability to access fresh air or exercise…on second thoughts, things don’t sound so great. But it’s all happening for the greater good, right? To stop a second outbreak spiralling out of control? Actually, the complete opposite could end up happening.
Experts have described the towers as “vertical cruise ships” as residents don’t have balconies, and share facilities like elevators, corridors, rubbish facilities, and laundry rooms. Plus there is a large number of people concentrated in a small area (which we know is the perfect breeding ground for this extremely contagious virus).
But it goes further downhill. The food care packages don’t include fresh produce such as milk, bread, fruit or vegetables, and elevators have been reported as faulty or broken down. Police presence is also large, with officers guarding each floor of the nine high rise apartment blocks despite the fact that the government admitted that the majority of the towers were COVID-free and only locked down as a precautionary measure.
As New South Wales prepares to close its border with Victoria on Tuesday night (July 7), the hard lockdown in Melbourne seems to have inadvertently exposed some of the hard realities faced by these public housing residents, including overcrowding, lack of hygiene resources, and faulty facilities, which have been an issue for years before the pandemic hit.