Fresh blow in Victoria hotel virus drama
Victoria's hotel drama has continued after a "small group" of homeless people tested positive for coronavirus among complaints some are screaming and smoking in their rooms.
The news was confirmed overnight to news.com.au by Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Approximately 2200 homeless people, including children, are residing "temporarily" in hotels across the state "on any given night" amid concerns COVID-19 could ravage the vulnerable.
Without providing an exact figure, DHHS confirmed a "small number" had tested positive and have been moved to a "separate Isolation and Recovery Facility/s" funded by the Victorian government "for people experiencing homelessness to enable isolation and recovery".
"The facility has experienced low demand with less than a handful of cases admitted to date," a spokesperson told news.com.au.
It comes as one Melbourne man, Paul Barr, told The Age earlier this month of his experience in the accommodation, which houses mostly homeless: "You hear screaming at night, 'I want this!' or 'I want that!' or whatever. Screaming in the night, three, four, five in the morning."
Mr Barr has called the Ibis Styles Kingsgate, in Melbourne's CBD, home for the last two months and complained "the smoke alarm's going off all the time. I think it's people smoking in their rooms."
Despite this, Mr Barr shared his concerns over his future as funding for the scheme is due to run out by the end of July, sending most back to the streets.
"All Victorians deserve safe and secure accommodation, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic as we work to slow the spread among the community," a spokesperson for the DHHS told news.com.au.
On Saturday afternoon, an immediate "hard lockdown" was imposed on nine estates that confined thousands of people to their homes for at least five days in response to a surge in coronavirus cases.
"I was there and I have to say, it's very unsettling," Emma King, chief executive officer of the Victorian Council of Social Services, told news.com.au.
"There's a very strong police and protective services presence, not just at the estate but in surrounding streets. In a way that's not normal. It's pretty confronting."
The towers house some of Melbourne's most vulnerable people, comprising struggling families, the elderly, ill and disabled, and migrants.
"This is a public health issue, but it doesn't look like it," Ms King said.
"No-one has done anything wrong on the estate, but it looks like a crime scene. The police presence is very strong. I expected a much stronger public health presence on site."
The Victorian Government has invested nearly $25 million in housing and homelessness support to shield the homeless from the worst pandemic seen in a century but the news is a blow for the Andrews government, who has come under fire for their handling of breaches in the housing estates and in hotel quarantine, which now faces a judicial inquiry.
Protocol breaches by security guards at the Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza hotels, including allegations of sexual interactions, have led to a return of virus outbreaks.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told ABC radio on Monday all of the state's active cases could possibly be linked back to the hotels.
"There's been a failure of that quarantine, clearly, in Victoria. We absolutely need to learn the lessons of that," the Commonwealth's acting Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, said.
Three more Victorians died of coronavirus in the past 24-hours, while the state recorded 238 new infections on Wednesday.
A woman in her 90s is the most recent person to die from the infection.
There have been 4448 cases across the state so far.
Twenty-nine new cases are linked to contained outbreaks and 209 are under investigation, Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday. Andrews admitted the high number is concerning.
Originally published as Fresh blow in Victoria hotel virus drama