Letter warns of 'urgent' problem that could fuel coronavirus spread

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

As coronavirus cases continue to soar in Victoria, a handful of local mayors in Melbourne have called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Daniel Andrews to act on an “urgent” problem that could be fuelling the spread of COVID-19.

Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp, as well as eight inner Melbourne mayors, have written to their state and federal leader to warn that large numbers of people within the community who don’t speak English aren’t receiving the correct information and have been left in the dark amid the pandemic.

Over the weekend 90 cases were confirmed in Victoria, while on Monday, there were 75 – the largest daily figure since March 31.

“Our non-English speaking background communities are struggling with the challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and limited up-to-date information in their respective languages,” the letter, which has been shared on Facebook by Stonnington Mayor Steve Stefanopoulos, said.

“We don’t believe the message is getting out there.”

The letter called for “urgent support” and an increase in education campaigns for culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton previously admitted delivering the correct information to multicultural communities was a “complex process” but the health department was working on doing so.

Eddie Micallef, chair of the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria, told the ABC last week it was “certainly possible” the recent surge in cases had been made worse due to language barriers.

People line up at a coronavirus pop-up testing facility in Broadmeadows. Source: AAP

“Look, I think the ethnic communities in this state have become a little complacent, like the rest of the community ... so I think we have to step up our response to make sure that we contain any chance a second wave may have of getting a foothold,” he said.

Community Migrant Resource Centre chief Melissa Monteiro said last week there needs to be more than 30 languages translated, while a sustained, multi-pronged campaign across television, radio, online, face-to-face, in newspapers and through letterbox drops is needed.

Outbreak ‘will get worse’, Prof Sutton warns

Victoria's growing coronavirus outbreak "will get worse before it gets better", the chief health officer has warned.

Professor Sutton said he expects to see "at least" as many positive cases in Victoria in the coming days as test results pour in. 

COVID-19 testing staff are seen at a pop-up site at Keilor Community Hub. Source: Getty

A testing blitz is underway in the suburbs of Albanvale, Broadmeadows, Brunswick West, Hallam, Fawkner, Keilor Downs, Maidstone, Pakenham, Reservoir and Sunshine West, which have seen high levels of community transmission in recent weeks.

More than 50,000 COVID-19 tests have been done in the suburbs and Professor Sutton wants to see the results before deciding on any further measures to contain the virus.

Putting the suburbs into a second lockdown remains an option.

"It is absolutely an option and we flagged the possibility of using it and we will use it if it is required," Professor Sutton said. 

with AAP

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