On the streets of Broadmeadows in Melbourne’s north, there is both deep concern and general indifference to the Victorian Government’s coronavirus testing blitz, with some locals saying that not even a deadly virus would cause them to change their behaviour.
A team of 800 health workers will try to test 10,000 people a day in Melbourne’s 10 problem suburbs, with the aim to carry out about 100,000 tests in 10 days.
Broadmeadows is one of the hotspots with a worrying spike in the number of cases of COVID-19.
But while some Broadmeadows locals expressed fear and urged their fellow residents to heed health warnings, others described the virus as “rubbish”.
“I’ve been out and about, and everyone has, and I haven’t met a person that’s got it,” one man said.
He said he was still hugging and kissing people in greeting and said COVID-19 was not dangerous.
“It’s not deadly, it’s like any other virus,” he said.
“A person who’s 99 years old is dying, 100 years old is dying … they’re going to die the next day regardless, so why does it matter?
“I’m not going to stop my whole life for coronavirus, I’ve got to work, I’ve got a business to run … just like everyone else in Broadmeadows.”
Others said they were not surprised to learn that Broadmeadows was a hotspot.
“No-one listens to the rules … not staying home, hugging, kissing,” one man said.
Some urged the Government to introduce heftier fines for failing to practice social distancing.
“People think they don’t get sick, but this is not a game anymore,” one woman said, describing the behaviour of some as “stupid”.
“[They] are hugging, they’re kissing, they’re too close to each other,” she said.
But other locals said they were not worried about hugging and were not practising social distancing.
“In our community everybody does that,” one man said.
Why are some suburbs hotspots? We may never know
Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen called the comments that everyone was going to get coronavirus “concerning”.
She urged people to continue to keep their distance in order “to keep this at bay in our community”.
“People need to avoid hugging each other and they need to avoid shaking hands. They need to stay 1.5 metres apart,” she told ABC News Breakfast.
“I would thoroughly disagree that everybody has it and that everybody is going to get it.”
Dr van Diemen said the testing blitz was underway and had been going well.
“We’ve had good engagement from the community, lots of tests done yesterday,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“We’re expecting that to increase over coming days.”
But we may never know why some suburbs were hotspots and others were not.
“It’s clear there was still some virus lurking around, that there [were] some transmission chains,” she said.
“With significantly increased movement, increased mixing, increased gathering sizes and frequency, those last few infections have just had the chance to take off.”
She said there was a complex set of factors at play, like, for example the fact some workforces in these hotspots had to continue to physically attend work during the lockdown.
Elsewhere, as the testing blitz got underway, people said they were unfazed to be living or working in one of Melbourne’s coronavirus hotspots.
One woman from Keilor Downs in Melbourne’s north-west said she was getting on with life and had been dismissing the concerns expressed by her relatives for her safety as “rubbish”.
“I ignore the hotspot, Keilor’s a wonderful place to live, hotspot or not,” she said.
She was unimpressed by the testing blitz.
“I reckon we’re crushing a peanut with a sledgehammer.”
In Pakenham, some said they were living life as normal, despite the virus.
“I haven’t seen anybody with COVID,” one woman said.
But Kay from Cafe Transylvania in Hallam said she was praying for people to listen.
“It’s better for everyone to do the right thing,” she said.
Premier urges everyone to be cooperative
The first three days of Victoria’s testing blitz will focus on Keilor Downs and Broadmeadows, where health workers will aim to test half the population.
The focus will then move to other hotspot suburbs over the course of the 10-day program.
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
The other suburbs central to the ramped-up testing program are Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir as well as Hallam and Pakenham in the outer south-eastern suburbs.
Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said ambulances and other testing vans would be at the end of many streets to make it easy for residents to be tested.
“They will be invited to come and get a test, and they’ll only have to travel 50 metres or 100 metres in order to complete that test,” Mr Andrews said.
The blitz was announced on a day when Victoria recorded 33 more coronavirus infections and another childcare centre, Connie Benn Early Learning Centre in Fitzroy, was forced to close after a parent of a child who attended the centre tested positive to COVID-19.
Mr Andrews said he was “confident” the strategy would help contain community transmission in Victoria.
He urged everyone to be cooperative and get tested.
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