Melbourne, Australia – An investigation has concluded that the sudden shutdown this summer of nine public residential towers in Melbourne has left 3,000 people without food, adequate medication and access to clean air during the second wave of the Coronavirus in the city, in violation of human rights laws.
The report, issued on Thursday by the Ombudsman in the state of Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne, said that residents were effectively placed under house arrest for 14 days in July without warning. The report said it deprived them of basic support, as well as access to activities such as outdoor exercise.
Deborah Glass, Victorian Ombudsman, wrote that the lockdown was “inconsistent with the human rights of the population, including their right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty.” The report recommends that the state government publicly apologize to Burj residents, as well as improve relationships and procedures in similarly high-risk accommodations in the city so that they are more prepared for future outbreaks.
Although Australia won global praise for its success in slowing the spread of the Coronavirus in the country, the report was a scathing rebuke of state officials’ decision to implement strict measures on public housing residents, who said they felt besieged, shocked, and suspected of discrimination. Many described it as a “nightmare”.
“We grew up here. We were born here,” one resident, whose real name was not mentioned in the report, told investigators. He added, “It felt as if we were in a safe place anymore, or not?” “We felt we were not worthy.”
The report also served as a reminder that such measures are rarely enforced equitably, and that they have been too costly for those economically disadvantaged. Many residents of the towers are minorities or immigrants. Some residents indicated that police officers overran the towers, making departure difficult.
Speaking of the residents of the towers, the report noted that “some of them suffered from civil wars and dictatorships before settling in Australia, and some even escaped torture at the hands of their former country. For them, the massive police presence was especially painful.”
When the second wave threatened to overturn Australia’s progress in stemming the pandemic, Victoria’s Premier, Daniel Andrews, imposed what would become one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world. It lasted 111 days, frustrating and winning an already exhausted and winter-tired Melbourne both Stinging And the the support From the audience.
Mr Andrews said the government has no choice and its actions are based on best public health advice.
“There is no rulebook for this, nobody in Victoria has done this before,” he told a news conference in Melbourne on Thursday. “We have taken steps that experts said are necessary to save lives.”
Investigators found that although the agency’s chief health official had signed the order to approve the shutdown, they were not aware of the government’s plans to abruptly implement it. The report stated that they were given only 15 minutes to look into the conditions of many of the documents and their human rights implications before announcing the details of the closure.
The report warned that “during crises, we may tend to view human rights as indispensable in the pursuit of saving human lives.” “This thinking could lead to a dangerous area.”
“It is not surprising that human rights are violated,” said Ibion Hassan, 32, who lives in a tower in a suburb north of Melbourne and lost her father to the Coronavirus in late July.
She and other residents said they were deeply disappointed by the lack of government services following the closure.
She added, “Everyone is just trying to heal and recover.” “An apology is the least they can do.”
Australian officials had hoped their handling of the virus would allow a “covid-normal” to appear at Christmas. The state of Victoria, which by late November eliminated the Coronavirus for the second time, has spent 48 days without any new locally transmitted cases.
But on Wednesday and Thursday, in a sign of the virus continuing, a group of 17 new cases appeared on the northern shores of Sydney, the largest city in Australia, ending the city’s two-week streak without having any new locally transmitted infections. And close some care homes.
Despite the report’s findings, the Victorian state government asserted that its actions were “complementary” in helping to slow the spread of the disease.
In a statement released on Thursday, Richard Wayne, Minister of Planning and Housing, said the authorities “acted at all times lawfully and within the applicable legislative framework.”
“We do not apologize for saving lives,” he added.
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