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Sydney Lockdown: COVID-19 numbers surge through inner-city social and Aboriginal housing

The Waterloo Towers are one area of the inner-city now declared a COVID-19 battleground. Photo: #WeLiveHere.

COVID-19 rates have skyrocketed in the inner-city over the past week as vaccination clinics are being set up to combat growing cases.

Outbreaks across high-density social and Aboriginal housing have rocked the inner-city, as the virus spreads among some of the state’s most vulnerable.

“We have a number of identified Aboriginal housing precincts or areas that have been affected,” Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Nathan Moran told City Hub.

“Certainly Gibbons Street in Redfern has been one of the first, the Aboriginal Housing apartments down by what used to be The Block, there have been outbreaks and in specifically identified areas for our community, but for public social housing in Glebe and Waterloo currently it’s been breaking out, unfortunately developing as we speak.”

Member for Balmain Jamie Parker mirrored the concerns of Mr Moran.

“Some inner-city suburbs including Glebe are seeing a spike in new cases of COVID-19 which is concerning,” Mr Parker said. “Lockdown has put a huge amount of pressure on residents.”

Chair of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, candidate for Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney and Wiradjuri woman Yvonne Weldon believes more needs to be done for the inner-city Indigenous Australian community.

“Two of my nephews, my niece and her baby have all contracted COVID,” Ms Weldon told City Hub.

“We need targeted communication campaigns for high-risk groups such as First Nations communities, people on low incomes and at risk of homelessness – one that cuts through mistrust and misinformation – plus community-led outreach and easy access to vaccines.

“Areas such as Glebe, Redfern and Waterloo – where many of my people live – are the new COVID-19 battlegrounds. Aboriginals need to be a priority, not an afterthought.”

Member for Newtown Jenny Leong conveyed her distress for all inner-city residents living in high-exposure sites.

“The current outbreak is very concerning, and the Premier and responsible Ministers should leave no stone unturned in ensuring that people have access to information, testing, vaccines and practical support,” Ms Leong said.

“People urgently need better internet and phone access, so they can access information, register for their COVID test results and remain connected while they are in isolation – but we know that many people in this community do not have internet at home.”

Finding a Fix

Vaccination and testing clinics have been established around the inner-city, including at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence in Redfern, the Redfern Community Centre and at Poet’s Corner.

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) has commissioned Counterpoint Community Services in Waterloo to assist public housing tenants in the inner-city to get vaccinated through arranging transport and helping to book appointments.

Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich contends that surging cases in high-density inner-city dwellings were always a looming threat.

“I’ve been pushing for DCJ Housing to inform tenants about COVID and prepare for outbreaks in multi-unit buildings since last year and for outreach vaccination clinics when vaccines became available,” Mr Greenwich told City Hub.

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