Mr Andrews said a specialised coronavirus management plan would be introduced for all nine towers and flagged that there would likely be more new cases uncovered in the coming days.
“Acknowledging this is in some respects akin to an aged care facility, there will be continued support and continued protection for those residents, given their age and, for many of them, their health status makes them especially vulnerable,” the Premier said.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said increased infection prevention measures would include hand hygiene stations on every floor plus a “very substantial deep clean”, cleaning of high-touch surfaces such as lifts and stairwells and check-ins with health officials every day.
Mr Andrews said a 14-day isolation period for those at 33 Alfred Street, which he described as reaching a “balance” for residents, will continue to be enforced by police.
“That is an abundance-of-caution approach that not only protects the welfare and the wellbeing, the health, of all of those residents, but also protects public health as well.”
Police Minister Lisa Neville acknowledged it would be a “really tough” nine days for the residents remaining in a hard lockdown.
“It is very clear, the message from the health authorities,” Ms Neville said.
“We can’t allow people to be moving across floors or in lifts, because it is such a high-risk environment in that particular tower.”
Ms Neville said residents who tested positive and their close contacts would be offered the option of hotel accommodation.
“That is the safest for you and for everyone else in those towers,” she said.
Ms Neville said there would be a reduced police presence at the towers and an increased number of care workers and health workers. Some police will remain on-site to ensure public order, she said.
“It will be much more a health response than a police response,” she said.
Mr Andrews said police would not be “mucking about” in handing out $1652 fines for breaking restrictions, after residents of the Mornington Peninsula complained of scores of Melburnians illegally travelling to their holiday homes before the new, six-week lockdown began on Wednesday night.
“If you are breaking the rules then you will be fined. There won’t be too many warnings given out, there can’t be,” the Premier said.
“This six weeks, we have got to give ourselves every chance that at the end we can get the numbers down to control the virus and maintain that.
Victoria recorded 165 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with six new aged care centres sent into lockdown and more infections confirmed among Melbourne hospital workers. Of Tuesday’s new cases, 135 are yet to be traced to a known outbreak.
The Al-Taqwa College outbreak in Truganina grew by six, making it Victoria’s largest cluster with 113 cases.
Professor Sutton confirmed some families in the Al-Taqwa cluster lived in the nine public housing towers but said it was unclear if either outbreak was sparked by the other location.
“It might have gone in one direction, it might have gone in the other direction,” he said.
“There may be multiple importations of the virus into the towers … these are communities that cross over between Truganina and these towers.”
Thursday’s cases included two healthcare workers from both the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Sunshine Hospital plus one staff member from the Northern Hospital, increasing the cluster linked to the Northern’s emergency department to 11.
Seven workers from six aged care centres have tested positive, putting six facilities into lockdown in addition to four aged care centres locked down on Wednesday due to confirmed cases among four staff and one resident.
Victoria has 932 active cases of coronavirus. Forty are in hospital, including nine in intensive care, up from seven on Wednesday.
Federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth revealed the national body of health experts had decided that people in areas of high community transmission, such as in Melbourne’s lockdown area, should now wear masks in situations where they could not maintain social distancing.
“There is a part of Australia in the moment where community transmission is on the rise … in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire area, surgical masks or cloth masks is recommended if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot socially distance,” Dr Coatsworth said.
Of the 165 additional people diagnosed in the past 24 hours, the majority are residents of local government areas in the city’s inner-north and west.
The Moonee Valley area – which includes the suburbs of Ascot Vale, Flemington and Moonee Ponds – recorded 26 cases.
Of Melbourne’s regional areas, Greater Geelong has six cases, up from two on Wednesday; Bendigo has four, up from one on Wednesday; and there is one case in each of Surf Coast, East Gippsland, Shepparton and Wodonga councils.
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Michael is a state political reporter for The Age.
Paul is a reporter for The Age.