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COVID scare forces hundreds into isolation

By Brendan Rees

Hundreds of residents and workers in Docklands were forced into isolation after a host of locations emerged as COVID-19 exposure sites.

The virus scare sent residents at the Lacrosse apartment building at 673 La Trobe St into 14-day isolation after it was deemed a Tier One exposure site on July 24.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said an infectious case attended the building from July 16 to 23 and all residents were asked to get tested and isolate.

“Our public health teams are undertaking on-site cleaning of common areas of the complex and are contacting residents to arrange testing,” a statement from the Department said.

A pop-up testing site was set-up on July 24 to “facilitate rapid testing” with more than 200 residents getting tested on July 25. Thirty-two individuals who were prioritised for rapid testing returned negative results.

DHHS also revealed a positive case attended Collins Square at 727 Collins St as well as the end-of-trip facility between July 13 to 15, prompting a Tier One alert. 

Anyone who had visited the building (at level 19, tower four) was told to get tested for COVID-19 immediately and isolate for 14 days.

A Walker Corporation spokesperson said all Collins Square end of trip facilities, lobbies, towers, and retail precinct reopened on July 18 “after confirmation for use again by [the] Department of Health and Human Services.”

“This followed a comprehensive deep cleaning program, carried out in line with strict Victorian Government guidelines,” the spokesman said, which included a deep clean of the other towers as a “further precautionary” measure. 

“We continue to prioritise the safety of our tenants and visitors and adhere to the latest COVID-19 guidance issued by [the] Department of Health and Human Services Victoria.”

Tanya Shronopoulos, the service customer manager of the Commonwealth Bank Docklands Branch at Collins Square, said her team initially went into “panic mode” upon hearing the news, “but we got tested [for COVID-19] and we were fine.”

“Because we are essential services, we are still attending the branch for our customers,” she said. 

Sandra Nesci, whose Mr Collins café remained open for takeaway at Collins Square, said although her business was not directly affected by the exposure site, she saw a big drop-off in customers.

“I think people are a bit scared to come in,” she said, adding that many of her regular customers from nearby offices were forced into isolation for 14 days. 

The District Docklands Market was on high alert after The Butcher Club and the Gourmet Deli House were listed as Tier One exposure sites on July 15. 

A District Docklands Market spokeswoman said both shops “immediately closed their stores” and notified staff members who may have been exposed.

“The impacted retailers have worked closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to assist with contact tracing and to undertake a deep clean of their stores,” the spokeswoman said. 

“In addition, a deep clean of the surrounding areas of The District Docklands was immediately undertaken as a precautionary measure. No other retailers were impacted.”

“All non-essential retail is currently closed, with Market Lane at The District Docklands open for essential products and services for our local community. The health and safety of our customers, retailers, and community is our priority.”

Angelo Theo and his wife Patty, who run two cafes in Docklands, were forced into 14-day isolation after discovering they had visited a Fitzroy restaurant that was later listed as a Tier One exposure site.    

“I was shocked … it was just out of the blue,” Mr Theo said. “It was my wife’s birthday; it was the only day we thought let’s go out.”

Mr Theo, 54, said staff were able to continue trading at their cafes (In a Rush and Focaccino) until their isolation period finished on July 29. 

“We’re just grateful that we can keep our shops open as tough as it is,” he said, adding they were grateful for the community’s support.

Positive cases also attended Southern Cross Station, Ichimaki Japanese restaurant at Docklands Stadium, and Story Coffee and Foodstore at 700 Bourke St. 

Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said he was confident public transport remained safe, “particularly given the mask rules currently in place” •

Docklands: It’s time for a plan

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