United in virus fight


Benjamin Millar

Inner-west residents are banding together in response to the growing coronavirus threat amid mass closures, event cancellations and unprecedented new laws coming into immediate effect.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of emergency on Monday as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Victoria surged past 70 and approached 400 nationwide.

A shortage of testing kits has forced Western Health to limit testing to those strongly suspected of having contracted the coronavirus.

“We will only test those who have a fever or acute respiratory infection and have recently travelled overseas, or you have been notified by the Department of Health and Human Services that you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19,” it said in a statement.

Maribyrnong council has shut all public libraries, community centres, recreation centres and its customer service centre until at least April 14, while Hobsons Bay’s libraries and other community facilities will be closed for at least 30 days from Wednesday.

Maribyrnong mayor Sarah Carter said the “unprecedented” decision followed advice from the federal and state governments.

“Most council services will continue to operate as normal, including waste, recycling, parking services and park management. However, we ask community members to contact us by phone or email.”

Many residents have stepped up to help the elderly and others in need amid service closures and supermarket shortages.

New Facebook group Westside Melbourne Coronavirus Outreach was set up to link people hoping to help those impacted in any way by the coronavirus or shortages of essential products.

Those without a Facebook account can email coronavirusaidwestside@gmail.com.

Altona’s Roni Burger is putting notes in neighbours’ letterboxes and using a Facebook group she founded, Melbourne Friendships, to establish networks of helpers.

“We are busy forming support groups of women living in the same suburbs to create circles of people who could look out for each other in a suburb buddy system,” she said.

Neighbourhood Watch Altona Meadows Inc has put a call out for donations to ensure elderly and sick neighbours don’t miss out on essentials.

Australia’s first supermarket to announce an exclusive shopping hour for the elderly and disabled described Tuesday’s first run as excellent and calm.

Altona’s IGA supermarket on Sunday became the first store to announce the move, opening at 6am on Tuesday, one hour before its usual time.

Meanwhile a blanket ban has been placed on non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people and a swathe of local events have been postponed and cancelled.

Basketball Victoria has cancelled all activities, programs and leagues while VFL and VFLW matches are postponed until at least May 31. The Sons of the West program has also been postponed.

Museums Victoria has closed all of its public sites including Scienceworks at Spotswood, while Footscray Community Arts Centre is postponing the Wominjeka festival and a host of other planned events and exhibitions. The Substation arts venue at Newport said most events in the next two months were either already cancelled or highly unlikely to go ahead.

– with Goya Dmytryshchak