Apartheid for the poor

The virus restrictions in the Melbourne towers make little sense.  What is there to stop contact between the residents already IN the towers?  The restrictions presumably in fact make it more likely that people will talk to their neighbours -- thus potentially spreading the virus.  This policy is CREATING infections, not stopping it

As Pauline Hanson has pointed out, many residents of the towers will be people with health problems of various sorts -- including large numbers of the elderly, the prime group that the virus kills. So by making sure such people are locked up WITH the virus, it will make sure that they are infected. The restrictions will actually kill people

The moral dimension of singling out poor people for harsh treatment does not appear to have been considered by the Labor government.  So much for "compassionate" Leftism

Across a verdant footy oval, some residents of Flemington's social housing towers can look out to a gleaming residential tower complex complete with a rooftop 'sky garden' designed by Jamie Durie.

The ALT-Sienna tower complex — designed by the same architecture firm behind Hobart's MONA Museum — is about an eight-minute walk from Flemington's public housing estate, now subject to an unprecedented lockdown to prevent coronavirus spreading among residents.

A similarly severe lockdown has been imposed on public housing towers in North Melbourne, some of which stand across the street from another luxury tower complex named Arden Gardens.

"Arden Gardens is a new landmark development for North Melbourne — an iconic address boasting the location of the inner-city along with the luxury of a park-side location, private landscaped plaza, cinemas, ground floor Woolworths and stunning city views," the complex's website reads.

Those in the nine public housing blocks in Flemington and North Melbourne are entering their fifth day of a total "hard lockdown" which forbids residents from leaving the property at all.

As of Wednesday morning, 75 total cases of coronavirus have been detected across the towers, though Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has previously said the true number of infections may be much higher.

Under the "detention directions" governing the nine towers, the lockdown can last for up to 14 days — ending at 3:30pm on Saturday July 18 — and those who refuse coronavirus tests can be detained for another 10 days.

As he announced the sudden lockdown, Premier Daniel Andrews said it would last at least five days.

Their neighbours in private apartment blocks, who have not had any documented coronavirus cases, can still leave the house for the four main reasons allowed under the state's stage three restrictions: shopping for food, exercise, work or education and medical care or caregiving.

Some 3,000 people are spread across nine towers in two separate estates in Flemington and North Melbourne in the city's inner north-west.

Authorities have warned of the "explosive" potential for the virus to spread within the public housing towers.

Airflow, proximity, ventilation and plumbing have all been considered as contributing factors to the way the virus has spread within the walls of the high-rise towers.

Tenants in these apartment blocks often share facilities like lifts, corridors, rubbish facilities and laundry rooms.

Some residents have told the ABC about broken lifts making it "impossible" to safely distance.

It's understood many of the tenants work public-facing essential jobs, making it more likely they will come into contact with the virus.

A spokesperson for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) told the ABC that the nine-tower lockdown was based on "expert public health advice".

"There are a significant number of vulnerable residents — including the elderly and people with medical conditions that place them at greater risk — while close confines and the shared community spaces within these large apartment blocks means this virus can spread rapidly," the spokesperson said.

Chris McLay, a North Melbourne resident in a private apartment near some of the towers, told the ABC "it was immediately obvious" that the public housing residents were going to face difficulties when the lockdown was announced.

"Living in an apartment building during the pandemic, it's so obvious how easily a building's residents can share the virus with each other," he said.

But he added the lockdown "was a huge burden for the people in the towers to take on".

"I just trust that the people who know best about public health think it's necessary, and hope that they can end it as soon as possible," he said.

Since the estate lockdown began, some residents of these public housing towers have criticised the sudden restrictions, which some said made them feel like criminals and may exacerbate existing tensions between some residents and police.

The nearby Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Service has previously claimed that many of the towers' residents of African descent are subject to over-policing and racial discrimination.

'If you live in public housing, it's easier to shut you up'
public housing towers can be seen from the aerial view
The Victorian Government said residents in these towers had to be locked down because of the number of active coronavirus cases.(ABC News: Simon Winter)

To qualify for public housing, dwellings are usually reserved for those from low socio-economic or migrant backgrounds, as well as those fleeing from domestic violence.


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