‘Worse than prison’: Inside tower ‘mayhem’

A man living inside one of the locked-down commission towers will spend his 32nd birthday in conditions he has described as "worse than prison".

Speaking exclusively to NCA NewsWire, Ugur Okanlar said he was stranded inside his small apartment with "barely any food" and just enough medication for his sick mother to last another two days.

"We've been sent one pack of food with all of the products expired, except Weet-Bix and jam, but we had no milk or bread to go with it. Some people haven't eaten in 24 hours or more," he said.

Ugur Okanlar is one of the 3000 residents trapped inside the hard lockdown operation happening at nine Melbourne public housing towers.
Ugur Okanlar is one of the 3000 residents trapped inside the hard lockdown operation happening at nine Melbourne public housing towers.

 

Mr Okanlar said he was still yet to be tested at his 126 Racecourse Rd, Flemington flat as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Monday morning 398 of the 3000 tenants in the nine public housing towers had been tested for COVID-19 since the "hard lockdown" was enforced on Saturday.

"For people with dogs in there flats there are officials who come up and walk them outside. Even the animals have more freedom," he said.

The concreter has also been unable to order medication for his 53-year-old mother.

"I've tried calling that DHHS hotline, but I give up after 45 minutes of being on hold," Mr Okanlar said.

"And to think that this could go on for another 14 days - it's causing mayhem here."


Mr Okanlar said he was confronted with pepper spray-wielding police officers on Sunday when he tried to go downstairs to find out more information.

"We can't go downstairs because the police just send us back upstairs, but they don't give us any information, no one knows anything here," he said.

"We don't need guns and pepper spray waved in our faces here, we don't need these people working against us, we need healthcare workers working with us."

Victorian Greens MP Ellen Sandell told NCA NewsWire many residents were trapped inside their flats without any access to NDIS carers, medication or food.

"I've been on the phone to many people who are being put on hold on that DHHS hotline or even after they've gotten through they are having to wait hours for an answer," she said.

"There are people in those buildings who are requiring access to their NDIS carers, who need certain foods for their autistic children and who need crucial medication."

Victorian Greens MP Ellen Sandell has been critical of the State Government’s approach to the public housing lockdown. Picture: Mark Stewart
Victorian Greens MP Ellen Sandell has been critical of the State Government’s approach to the public housing lockdown. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

It comes after the Government distributed a five-page document to tenants citing the lockdown operation as "detention".

"These directions require everyone who ordinarily resides in a detention location to limit their interactions with others by restricting the circumstances in which they may leave the premises where they ordinarily reside," the note reads.

"This is legislation - an official order," Ms Sandell said.

"For the first 18+ hours of lockdown, public housing residents received virtually no information. Then they were handed this five-page document in English.

"Think about how a 'detention direction' looks for people who have fled war zones and dictators. This has been led by force, not care."

A lone woman looks out the window of her apartment at the North Melbourne public housing flats. Picture: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images
A lone woman looks out the window of her apartment at the North Melbourne public housing flats. Picture: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

 

Mr Andrews announced on Monday the Government had partnered with local community leaders and groups, such as the North Melbourne Community Centre, Fareshare, the Community Grocer, Coles, and the Victorian Trades Hall Council to ensure residents started to receive the supplies they needed.

Last night 500 packs of essential supplies and more than 3000 meals were delivered to residents, with thousands more delivered today.

The Government has also requested additional support from the Australian Defence Force.

Two field emergency management units will also address residents' medical concerns, with GPs and nurses, and pharmacotherapy and medicines available on site.

Victoria recorded 127 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday night, the state's highest daily spike so far.

NSW will shut the border to Victorians from midnight on Tuesday.

A man in his 90s died from the deadly virus in the past 24 hours, while 34 cases were linked to known outbreaks and 40 to routine testing.

Fifty-three cases, linked to the public housing towers cluster, are under investigation.

Originally published as 'Worse than prison': Inside tower 'mayhem'



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