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Coronavirus: 3,000 people put into ‘hard lockdown’ as cases soar in Melbourne tower blocks

Nine inner-city tower blocks, home to 3,000 people, have been placed in “hard lockdown” after a surge in coronavirus infections in Melbourne, Australia.

Residents have been told they are not allowed to leave their homes and police have been stationed in the area after more than 27 cases were recorded among 12 households in large public housing towers.

They were among a record number of cases (108) found in a single day in the state of Victoria on Saturday, while a further 74 were discovered on Sunday.

The measure, announced by state premier Daniel Andrews on Saturday, is a response to the outbreak, which has “genuinely explosive potential” for the spread of coronavirus, the state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said.

Mr Daniels said: “This is not going to be a pleasant experience for those residents but I have a message for those residents: this is not about punishment but protection.

“We cannot have this virus spread. We have to do everything we can to contain the virus and that is why staying in your unit, staying in your flat, is absolutely essential.”

He said many people in the buildings had pre-existing health conditions and that “people will die, it’s as simple as that” if the virus takes hold.

Rent will be waived for two weeks and hardship payments will be made of $1,500 for those who are unable to go to work and $750 for those without paid work, Mr Andrews said.

Food and medical supplies will be delivered by authorities as public health workers test every single resident in the blocks in Flemington and North Melbourne, except those who have previously tested positive.

In 12 other Melbourne postcodes operating under stay-at-home orders, people are allowed to leave, but only to go to work or study, to provide care, to buy groceries or to get exercise.

Mr Sutton stressed that the public health measures were necessary, not because of the residents but due to the close confines of the flats.

“This specific setting has genuinely explosive potential,” he said.

Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone called for a temporary halt to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the country after the alarming surge in Victoria.

The country had seemed to be coping well with the virus, suffering 104 deaths among 8,449 infections from the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking its global spread.

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