“Improved” response to public housing outbreak

“Improved” response to public housing outbreak
Brendan Rees

A mother pushes her baby in a stroller with a child beside her, a pair of young girls smile, and others go about their day while soaking up the winter sun.

It was in stark contrast to July last year when a coronavirus outbreak led to a hard lockdown of the Flemington public housing estate which left many traumatised.

At the time, police swarmed in their hundreds ensuring no one left their homes.

But when COVID-19 returned to their estate on August 7, the response was different.

There was less fear and health authorities conceded things had gone “a lot more smoothly”.

There were no police and residents had access to a pop-up testing clinic and vaccination marquee set up at the estate by Cohealth.

Residents employed as health concierges were also supporting the public health effort by sharing information in different languages.

One of the towers at 130 Racecourse Rd was identified as an exposure site, with one floor classified as a tier-one and residents placed into hard lockdown.

On August 10, COVID response commander Jeroen Weimar said three positive cases were identified at 130 Racecourse Rd and 126 Racecourse Rd and moved to hotel quarantine.

“It’s very distressing to have in this case children identified as positive cases, but they’re now in a safe and best possible place that they can be,” he said.

Mr Weimar said all residents of the main tower at 130 Racecourse Rd had been tested with “around two-thirds of those test results have already come back as negative test results”.

He reiterated that the estate continued to be safe and asked all residents of 126 Racecourse Rd (which was classified as tier-two), to get tested and isolate until they received a negative result.

Amy, a resident and mother of three at the Racecourse Rd estate, said, “We were so scared that we were going to get locked in again.”

“They seem like they’ve got it under control at the moment,” she said, but added “we got told there were supposed to be three cases in the building”.

“We haven’t even been notified or told anything about it,” she told North West City News after she saw a person being escorted away by a group of people in “HAZMAT suits”.

Another resident, Hareya Beley, said, “Who knows whether we are affected or not … the thing is I heard they found a positive case in here and they are quarantined somewhere else.”

Deputy Leader of the Victorian Greens and Member for Melbourne Ellen Sandell, who slammed the State Government for its response to managing last year’s outbreak in the towers, said residents in Flemington had reported improved communication.

“Residents tell us communication with the Department of Health has improved since last year, although there’s still opportunities to do things better,” Ms Sandell said •

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