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‘We don’t have a plan’: Top cop admits they have NO IDEA how to police flats in coronavirus lockdown

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Victoria’s Police Association secretary says police have ‘no plan’ on how to enforce the lockdown of nine Melbourne public housing towers at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Sergeant Wayne Gatt said on Sunday the association would be talking to Victoria Police about what approach to take on Sunday afternoon.

‘We don’t have a plan at this point,’ he said.

A woman is questioned after attempting to flee from public housing towers under lockdown in Flemington, Melbourne, on Sunday. Police say they have 'no plan' on how to enforce the five-day coronavirus lockdown in which only essential services are allowed in or out

A woman is questioned after attempting to flee from public housing towers under lockdown in Flemington, Melbourne, on Sunday. Police say they have ‘no plan’ on how to enforce the five-day coronavirus lockdown in which only essential services are allowed in or out 

A man living in a flat is seen making a gesture with his arms crossed at the Flemington Public housing flats on Sunday

A man living in a flat is seen making a gesture with his arms crossed at the Flemington Public housing flats on Sunday 

Pictured: a woman tries to avoid police at the Melbourne coronavirus lockdown in Flemington on Sunday. An estimated 3000 people are affected by the temporary emergency measure needed to stop Victoria's ballooning spread of the deadly coronavirus

Pictured: a woman tries to avoid police at the Melbourne coronavirus lockdown in Flemington on Sunday. An estimated 3000 people are affected by the temporary emergency measure needed to stop Victoria’s ballooning spread of the deadly coronavirus

Police attempting to stop the car of a woman trying to flee the lockdown on Sunday

Police attempting to stop the car of a woman trying to flee the lockdown on Sunday

‘These are important tasks and the police don’t in anyway relinquish their responsibility to actually help out.’

Nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne were locked down from 4pm on Saturday, with 500 police stationed across every floor.

Nobody is allowed in or out of the buildings except to deliver essential supplies and services. 

The sudden move was deemed necessary to stop the spread of the highly infectious disease after more than 23 cases were found across a dozen households. 

An estimated 3000 residents have been caught by the lockdown which will last for at least five days.

A total of 500 police have been put on rotation to patrol the lockdown. Pictured: Police on foot patrol at Flemington on Sunday

A total of 500 police have been put on rotation to patrol the lockdown. Pictured: Police on foot patrol at Flemington on Sunday

Pictured: a view of one of the nine housing commission flats under coronavirus lockdown, this one at Flemington in Melbourne’s inner northwest

Pictured: the housing commission flats at Flemington when the surprise lockdown was enacted immediately on Saturday

Pictured: the housing commission flats at Flemington when the surprise lockdown was enacted immediately on Saturday

The Police Association of Victoria is also concerned about the possibility of police catching and spreading the deadly virus.

On Saturday, Sergeant Gatt said the decision to use police to enforce the targeted lockdown was sprung without warning, and demanded an urgent safety briefing from Victoria Police.

‘Health and safety protocols need to be put in place for this operation, without them our members could become vectors for transmission of this virus in the community, like security officers have been in hotels,’ he said.

Police speak to one of the residents of the housing commission flats. Baby formula is being provided along with money, children's toys, medications, essential food and counselling

Police speak to one of the residents of the housing commission flats. Baby formula is being provided along with money, children’s toys, medications, essential food and counselling

Sgt Gatt told reporters on Sunday that police have had little more coronavirus training than the rest of the community.

So far, through good hygiene practices police had limited the spread of the disease among officers, he said, who are often in contact with the public at high-risk events such as at protests where the virus can spread.

‘We have to take the same approach to a large scale operation like this, you just can’t jump into it and throw caution to the wind without a plan to succeed,’ he said. 

Sgt Gatt has said he wants assistance from other organisations such as the Australian Defence Force to support police, but that it was up to the Victorian Government to decide which agencies could best help. 

‘Please remember (police are) not there to harm or hurt anybody, we’re simply there for the safety of others,’ he said.

The public housing estates at North Melbourne also among the nine towers under lockdown on Sunday. The only people allowed in or out are essential services

The public housing estates at North Melbourne also among the nine towers under lockdown on Sunday. The only people allowed in or out are essential services

Daily Mail Australia asked Victoria Police on Sunday night if any framework for patrolling the lockdowns has yet been agreed on.  

‘Any meetings between Victoria Police and the Police Association are private so it would be inappropriate to make further comment at this time,’ a Victoria Police spokesperson said.  

Victorian health authorities have been working through the night to supply essentials including baby formula to the thousands of housing commission residents trapped by the lockdown. 

Food, activity boxes for children, essential medications including methadone, counselling, domestic violence services, and drug and alcohol support are also being provided. 

Pictured: Police talk to a housing commission resident on a mobility scooter in Flemington

Pictured: Police talk to a housing commission resident on a mobility scooter in Flemington

Translators will be doorknocking to explain directions to tenants who don’t speak English.

Some residents of the public housing estate are employed and they will receive a $1500 hardship payment to compensate for missing work.

Those without a job will receive $750.  

Premier Daniel Andrews has said they would also receive free rent.  

A crowdfunding campaign for residents by Victorian Trades Hall Council had raised more than $250,000 by Sunday afternoon.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday the lockdowns would not be pleasant but were necessary for public safety.

‘If we have a large group of people who already have pre-existing and underlying health challenges infected with this virus then people will die. It is as simple as that,’ he told reporters.

Public health workers are to go door-to-door testing every resident on every floor who has not tested positive.   

Victoria has been recording daily double digit increases since the latest outbreak began with another 74 cases on Sunday taking the state’s total to 2536 on Sunday night, making the drastic lockdowns necessary.

The spread is threatening to reignite the pandemic across other Australian states which have brought the disease under control. 

CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 8,449

New South Wales: 3,419

Victoria: 2,536

Queensland: 1,067

Western Australia: 618

South Australia: 443

Tasmania: 228

Australian Capital Territory: 108

Northern Territory: 30

TOTAL CASES: 8,449

RECOVERED: 7,399

CURRENT ACTIVE CASES: 563 

DEATHS: 104

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Victoria’s justice department is recruiting staff to work on the hotel coronavirus quarantine program, after it became a virus breeding ground.

The Department of Justice and Community Safety is looking for casual resident support officers and team leaders to work 80-hour fortnights.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent impacts on workforce availability mean that additional resources are urgently needed to undertake temporary frontline COVID-19 work for the department,’ the job ad stated on Sunday.

‘We are seeking people with great customer service skills to take on the role of a Resident Support Officer within a number of Melbourne CBD hotels, over the coming weeks and months.’

Successful candidates would have to work six 12-hour shifts over a 24/7 roster fortnight, according to the department’s job advertisement.

The quarantine program was put on hold for a fortnight, with Corrections Victoria taking over its operation from private security companies.

The state government came under fire for the program after it was hit with infection protocol breaches while hosting returned travellers.

Instead of preventing the spread of the virus, the program was found to be central to the rise of the state’s COVID-19 case numbers.

AAP understands that the Qantas Group provided a link to the Victorian Government’s career page to staff that have been stood down.

It is understood grounded flight staff may have applied for the roles.

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