A staffer at one of Melbourne’s busiest hospitals has been sacked for an “abhorrent and disgraceful anti-Semitic” comment aimed at an illegal party that sparked COVID spreading fears.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital confirmed the comment in a statement on Tuesday.
“We are aware of a hospital support staff member who made an abhorrent and disgraceful anti-semitic comment on Facebook,” it said.
“The comment does not reflect the Royal Melbourne Hospital and our values. We do not tolerate racial or religious hatred, contempt or ridicule.
“The staff member is no longer an employee of the hospital and we apologise for the hurt and anger this has caused.
“We stand with and support our Jewish staff members, patients and community.”
Melbourne had 24 more local cases on Tuesday, including three more mystery infections. Only 14 of the latest cases were in quarantine throughout their infectious period.
The latest cases came amid growing anger about the weekend engagement party in inner-Melbourne. It was attended by nearly 70 people, in defiance of Melbourne’s lockdown orders – and six positive COVID cases have already emerged from the celebration, which authorities fear might be a super-spreader event.
The party was attended by prominent members of the Victorian Jewish community, who have faced criticism from within their own community.
It was one of several concerning incidents in Melbourne last weekend, including a street pub crawl in Richmond, and a street gathering outside a Northcote pub. A clearly angry Premier Daniel Andrews used all as reasons for further tightening Melbourne’s lockdown rules on Monday – with a curfew and permits for essential workers returning until at least September 2.
“Every time even a small number of people make really bad choices, selfish choices, it take away from the hard work that so many millions more are doing, and it extends these lockdowns because it makes it more likely that we will have more cases,” Mr Andrews said.
“They are sh–ty choices and they keep us all locked down for longer than we should be.”
But on Tuesday, he condemned the anti-Semitic sentiment to criticism of the engagement party.
“Anti-Semitism is unacceptable and evil and we have a zero tolerance approach to that in our state,” he said.
“The event … was not a function of being Jewish, it was a stupid function. It was an illegal function. Those people are being dealt with. Them breaking the rules was not a reflection on the Jewish community, more broadly.”
Victoria Police said on Monday they were investigating the party and each adult faced a fine of $5500 – meaning up to $350,000 in total.
However, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton was also in hot water on Tuesday, apologising to the owners of the Northcote pub after naming it as the site where dozens of people congregated on the street in breach of lockdown restrictions.
The Peacock Inn Hotel was vandalised and targeted with abusive Google reviews after it was identified by Mr Patton and media as the location of an illegal street gathering on Sunday afternoon.
“STAY HOME YUPPIE BASTARDS,” was seen printed on the front of the venue on Tuesday morning.
On Monday, Peacock Inn owner Andrew Gilbert said the pub had been closed throughout Melbourne’s sixth lockdown and he was unaware a crowd had gathered to listen to music being played at an apartment opposite the venue.
The pub also posted on its Facebook account to say it was closed at the time.
“We were categorically, 100 per cent not involved in any way,” it said.
“Please spread the word that this wasn’t us. We have always operated within the guidelines and care very much about our community.”
Although he never said the pub was behind the event, Mr Patton admitted some might have misconstrued his “ambiguous” public comments.
“I’m sorry there was that misinterpretation. That venue wasn’t serving any of the alcohol or any of the food involved. It was used as a reference point,” Mr Patton said.
“I want to be really clear and apologise. I should have been clearer in my language that they had done nothing wrong,” he told 3AW earlier on Tuesday.
Mr Gilbert said he accepted the apology “to a degree”.
“Have someone do a little bit of research before you name drop a certain business that’s doing it hard and is closed,” he told 3AW.
People are no longer allowed to remove their masks to drink takeaway alcohol from venues after police handed out up to 100 fines at the weekend, including at a takeaway-drink pub crawl in Richmond and the 200-person street party in Northcote.