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‘Like a prison': Melbourne tower residents slam 'unfair' hard virus lockdown

Sunday July 5, 2020

Police patrols outside one of the public housing towers on Racecourse Road in Flemington on Sunday. Source: AAP

Melbourne father of five children under five, Abdirahman Ibrahim, sat down to watch the 6pm news and learned that his building was going into lockdown after a surge in coronavirus cases.

Thinking he had until 11.59pm on Saturday like other residents in his postcode, the 27-year-old ran downstairs to buy formula for his seven-month-old twins but was stopped by police.

Just two hours prior, Premier Daniel Andrews had announced a "hard" lockdown for nine public housing towers, with approximately 3,000 residents, in North Melbourne and Flemington, effective immediately.

Police swarmed the estates, blocking driveways and doorways and barring people from going out.

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Victoria recorded 108 new virus cases on Saturday, including a cluster of up to 30 cases across a few housing estates.

The government's decision to lock down all nine towers was made because of "patterns of movement, friendship groups, family groups," the premier said.

He also cited the crowded living in public housing and many communal spaces, meaning community transmission was high risk.

Mr Ibrahim, a Somali-Australian who has lived in Australia for 10 years after fleeing his war-torn homeland, said he couldn't find out how to get his specific needs met.

His household supplies are low as he and his wife do their weekly shop on Sundays.

They need formula for the baby twins, nappies, milk, Weetbix, soap, toothpaste, laundry powder, fruit, vegetables and meat.

"This is not fair," Mr Ibrahim said.

"There are a lot of postcodes in lockdown but they are allowed to leave the house for essentials.

"What the Victorian government is doing is discriminating the people who don't have a voice.

"We are not different from the rest of the Victorian community which is in lockdown now."

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Mr Ibrahim is a casual pick-packer in a warehouse in Melbourne's west and is not paid if he doesn't turn up.

He said the imprisonment imposed on him felt like he'd gone back in time to the trauma his family ran from.

‘Like a prison’
Ali Muhammad, a resident of one of the Racecourse Road towers in Flemington, returned home from buying groceries on Saturday afternoon, knowing he would not be allowed out for five days, The Age reported.

“I'm feeling very sad, because we can't get out of here, we're locked up, it's like a prison,” he said.

Police speak to a resident who tried fleeing one of the towers on Sunday. Source: AAP

"I left here this morning, I was working, now I don’t know how or if I’ll get out of here tomorrow.”

Another resident named Ahmed who lives in an affected tower said the five-day hard lockdown would be particularly difficult for households of many people.

“It's not good if too many people live in the one house. And five days in there, it'll be a headache. It’ll be five hard days - I don’t know what to say, I’ll just be counting the four corners,” he told The Age.

The premier's office has said urgent requests for food and supplies were being triaged via Victoria Police and health department officials on site and interpreters are assisting.

The state government has financial support for those who cannot attend work because of home isolation.


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