Tuesday July 7, 2020
BY BIWA KWAN, CAMILLE BIANCHI, RACHEL CARY
As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews insists the hard lockdown of nine public housing towers is not a punishment, residents inside say they are struggling to access crucial supplies.
Nine towers in Flemington and North Melbourne have been locked down since Saturday in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, with 3,000 residents unable to leave their apartments for any reason for at least five days.
Mr Andrews said thousands of meals, along with hundreds of toiletry packs and care packs for children have been distributed to residents.
The government is also delivering bread and milk after the staples were missing from hampers on Sunday.
But some residents have reported difficulties in receiving all sorts of supplies.
On day three of the public housing estate lockdown, single mother Amina, who does not want to be identified by her full name, said she reached breaking point.
“I don’t think I can handle it anymore,” she told SBS News.
“I am frustrated and angry. I wasn’t prepared at all.”
The mother-of-seven in one of the Flemington public housing towers said it has been particularly hard to care for her infant without access to essential supplies like nappies and fresh milk.
“We are in two bedrooms with eight of us,” she said, whilst comforting her crying eight-week-old infant child.
“They [the children] want fresh milk. They want toast. They want a normal life.”
She said the kids have been living off meals of Weet-Bix breakfast cereal – without milk.
Victorian Police officers and health workers are seen outside a public housing tower along Racecourse Road in Melbourne. AAP
“I can’t keep them fed anymore … I don’t know how to explain. I didn’t expect this.”
At 4pm, Amina said she received the first delivery of food supplies, after calling the health department hotline and sending four text messages.
But she said the family has yet to be tested for COVID-19.
“We haven’t been tested. And the kids are getting frustrated. My sixteen-year-old said she doesn’t want to be tested anymore because she has been waiting [from] Saturday.”
Workers in hazardous material overalls are seen outside of a public housing tower along Racecourse Road in Melbourne. AAP
‘We’re sharing what we have’
The Yusuf family is in a neighbouring tower under lockdown.
Father-of-three Mohamad Yusuf said residents in the building are sharing what supplies they have, but the fear of contagion is a constant concern.
“We only have the supplies we already had in the house on Saturday and now we are running very low.”
At least 53 cases have been linked to nine public housing towers under lockdown as the state records its 20th consecutive day of double-digit growth.
“I’m helping out my elderly neighbours. Getting some information to them. Getting some essential stuff like sugar and milk to them. We’re sharing [our supplies].
“The virus could spread. But when people don’t have adequate essentials, we have to go out and share stuff. You are promoting the spread of the virus.”
Left to right: Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Polly Graham, Mohamad Yusuf and Hannah Ibrahim say a number of residents have yet to receive supplies. SBS