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‘It's dire’: Covid fears for inner-city communities as Redfern Towers struck

Redfern residents are deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of their community as NSW authorities confirm an emerging COVID-19 cluster across three public housing towers in the inner-city Sydney suburb.
Wiradjuri woman Yvonne Weldon is deeply concerned about residents affected by the Covid-19 outbreak in inner-city Sydney, some of whom are her family members.

“I’ve got a great-niece that’s not even one yet that now has this,” she told NITV News. 

“It's quite dire. I'm really concerned about what's happening for all people in and around Redfern, Waterloo and Glebe.

“It’s my understanding there are about 78 Aboriginal people that have caught the virus. A number of them over 40 have been hospitalised, some of them (are) in ICU, and it’s a real concern if this continues to grow.”

NSW Health authorities have confirmed there’s a cluster emerging across three public housing towers in Redfern, with 12 people testing positive for the virus.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Marianne Gale said additional testing clinics have been set up, and food and medical supplies are being delivered to the towers, home to around 630 people.

“Our health teams will be doing their best to ensure support is there for people to be able to socially isolate and have the information they need around mask-wearing, cleaning products in the home, all of those sorts of information.”

Ms Gale also said those who are unable to isolate themselves safely in their homes are being offered alternative accommodation and a range of options to be moved. 

“Clearly, it's a challenge,” Ms Gale said.

“We know for many families who might live in households that are crowded, it's easy to say, 'isolate from everybody', but we understand that practically, that's difficult to do for many communities, including residents of Redfern.”

This support has been welcomed by Metro Aboriginal Land Council CEO Nathan Moran. 

“That’s a beautiful thing that the Sydney Local Health District has been doing now for over two weeks in our community, providing alternative accommodation for those who can’t isolate...” he said.

“Some households, you have children who have it and parents who don’t and vice versa.

“For us, the real thing is about the health and wellbeing and the assistance for those to deal with this dislocation or isolation of being locked into their houses or apartments for 14 days straight.” 

Ms Weldon, who is running for Sydney Mayor, said she’s concerned about cases rising, saying many people in the community don’t have the health and safety information they need. 

“The information and resources for our people to be informed and protected are just not there,” she said. 

Ms Weldon said there needs to be more collaboration between local Aboriginal organisations and state health services to unpack misinformation around the virus and immunisation circulating in the community.

The Redfern cluster comes as outbreaks in regional and remote Aboriginal communities continue to spread and other vulnerable populations are similarly exposed. 

Guguyelandji and Woppaburra woman and blues performer Marlene Cummins told NITV News she is desperately concerned her son Leroy, currently in custody at Parklea prison, has contracted the virus. 

“I don't know if he got it here (Redfern) or out at Parklea, and I have questions as to whether they were still willy-nilly putting inmates into Parklea while it was a hot spot for the virus.”

Ms Cummins said her request to video call her son to find out how he’s going has been declined. 

“I have a lot of cause for anxiety because I need to know what level he is at with the virus,” she said.

“I just needed to hear from my son that he is okay and I needed to know his condition but they wouldn't give me that, they said, 'sorry we can't tell you.'

“That’s not humane, I feel powerless,” she said.

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