Just hours after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews locked down nine public housing apartment blocks, more than $110,000 has been raised to help support residents who are no longer able to leave their homes.
In an unprecedented move, Mr Andrews said not only would the inner-city towers, in Flemington and North Melbourne, be fully locked down for five days, but the area would be cordoned off to the general public, after another 108 cases of coronavirus were announced on Saturday.
“This is a very significant step, not one we’ve had to take before but it is for the protection of those residents and the broader community that we take this very difficult step,” he said.
“The police presence and police operation will be unprecedented and Victoria Police are well placed to do that important work, particularly when you think about the amazing logistic effort that they put in during the bushfires earlier this year.”
The Victorian Trades Hall set up the fundraising website shortly after, and at the time of writing had hit $110,175.
Funds will be used to help residents through employment advice, representation and direct financial support.
“The burden of public crises is usually shouldered by those already in precarious situations,” a statement on the fundraiser reads.
“This is unfair. It should be our work to make sure this isn’t the case again.
“The Victorian union movement will work with community groups, residents and the Victorian Government to ensure every dollar raised goes to residents.”
Police were seen lining the boundary of one apartment building on Saturday night, as residents trying to re-enter the building were given the news they would not be allowed to leave again.
Residents were told arrangements would be made for food and medications to be supplied to each household, and social and support workers were already at the buildings.
“Whether it be physical health, mental health, food, supplies, all of those sorts of issues will be dealt with and we’re confident we have — that work has already started. The planning for that delivery for that has already started,” Mr Andrews said.
“We will have more to say about that tomorrow by way of personal support.”
The official order gives the government the power to lock the towers down for two weeks, but Mr Andrews said five days should be sufficient to test every person in the building, and then make decisions when more information is available.
Anyone who denies the testing could face longer in mandatory quarantine.
Saturday marked the state’s second-worst day of the pandemic, with 108 new cases announced. On March 28, there were 111 cases.
Of those, 14 have been linked to controlled outbreaks, 25 detected though routine testing, and the origin of 69 cases is under investigation.
Minister for Housing Richard Wynne said the government had not taken the decision lightly.
Knowing these buildings and having walked those corridors, I understand acutely the closeness that comes with living in them,” he said.
“These towers rely on common entrances, common walkways and common lifts. Earlier in my life, I worked on the Flemington Estate for seven years.”
Mr Wynne said while there were only 23 cases in the towers at the moment, the virus could “easily and savagely rip through these buildings and infect
thousands and thousands of Victorians”.
“These high-density high-rise towers are home to some of the most vulnerable in our community.
“These residents are also some of the most vulnerable to coronavirus.
“It’s the reason we need these residents to stay inside their homes and stay safe.”