Victorian authorities are bracing for the possibility at least one in four public housing residents still under strict lockdown will contract the coronavirus in coming days.
Thousands of tenants from eight Melbourne towers have been released from ‘hard lockdown’ – enabling them to leave home from Friday for essentials like exercise or shopping.
But tenants in another block of flats have not been so lucky.
A “substantial” outbreak of 53 coronavirus cases at 33 Alfred Street in North Melbourne has prompted a three-pronged strategy from authorities.
Residents in that tower must now remain inside their homes for nine more days.
It is likely 20 to 25 per cent of the people living on the site, if not more, will develop the coronavirus, chief health officer Brett Sutton said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said those who had already tested positive, as well as their close contacts, would be given the option to undergo quarantine at a hotel.
The extended lockdown was announced on Thursday afternoon after 2515 tests across the nine properties recorded 159 coronavirus cases.
Two towers – 9 Pampas Street and 159 Melrose Street – have zero cases and moved to stage three lockdown restrictions immediately.
Six other towers also had a low number of cases.
The vast majority of these residents will also be able to join the rest of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in stage three lockdown.
And for those living at one of the eight towers who hadn’t been infected, Thursday’s announcement meant one thing: Freedom.
Bol Thach lives in the North Melbourne towers at 76 Canning Street.
“I’ve been watching the news all day, every day,” Mr Thach said.
“It’s the freedom you’ve been waiting for.”
He said he can’t wait to feel the sun on his face after enduring the lockdown, which he slammed as “not necessary at all”.
“I’ll walk around and get some fresh air and do some shopping,” he said.
Associate Professor Hassan Vally, an epidemiologist at La Trobe University, said it was “sensible” to let residents in the six towers with few coronavirus cases to be released from hard lockdown.
“There are quite big families in those units and it’s going to be very difficult to maintain that isolation,” he told The New Daily.
“It would be very cruel given the relatively low number of cases to force them into what’s happening at Alfred Street.”
Associate Professor Hassan praised the government for giving infected residents who have tested positive, as well as their close contacts, the opportunity to spend quarantine in a hotel.
“The history we can draw on shows if people do avoid that close contact, they usually avoid spreading or catching the virus so that’s what we need to concentrate on,” he said.
“You’d think it’d be very attractive for some of these families. It’s an opportunity to do the right thing and be supported, but also get out of those crowded conditions.”