sbs- Residents of a south-west Sydney apartment building are bracing for two weeks of strict lockdown after 14 people tested positive to COVID-19.
The South Western Sydney Local Health district confirmed the complex at Campbell Street in Liverpool – one of eight local government areas under tougher COVID-19 restrictions due to higher case loads – was locked down on Friday night.
All of the residents, who have been deemed close contacts, are required to isolate for 14 days and undergo repeat testing in their apartments.
“South Western Sydney Local Health District is working with the residents and building management to assess the situation and, in collaboration with other agencies, is implementing measures to address infection control and the health and welfare of residents,” it said in a statement.
Police officers and private security are on-site to ensure compliance and assist with the provision of food and services, while the local health district said tailored support will be provided to isolated residents as needed.
“This situation reinforces the need for everyone to wear a face mask in shared foyer or lobby areas, lifts, stairwells and corridors, and shared laundry facilities of apartment complexes as well as regular and thorough cleaning of high-touch surfaces,” the statement said.
It said “further investigation is ongoing” to determine the number of affected households.
One resident, Jonah Elma, said she was shocked to find out the virus had spread.
“It was quite shocking. We didn’t expect it to be this many people to be affected,” Ms Elma, a nurse, told SBS News.
“We didn’t know until the end of the day (on Friday) how many people were really affected.”
Concerns of a ‘communication gap’
One resident, who did not wish to be identified, says they received direct communication about the lockdown seven days after a notice appeared indicating an initial COVID-19 case.
They said the notice was posted on the gate of the apartment block on 1 August, a day after a potential COVID-19 case was uncovered during testing on 31 July.
“It has been brought to our attention by (NSW Health) that there may be a resident living in your complex in isolation that has tested positive to COVID-19,” the notice said.
The resident told SBS News a number of other residents did not see the notice and that it would have been missed by their family had they not passed by and inspected it closer.
“I am very disappointed. I do feel let down (by NSW Health and building management),” they said.
“The notice was easy to miss. That is concerning to me and my family.
“The building should have been locked down when the resident tested positive on 31 July. Why did it take six or seven days to lock down? I think by this time, many more people were potentially infected without knowing.”
The resident said there was a “communication gap” and that “residents should be informed of the risks”.
They said their family have been waiting for access to the vaccine and that has only increased their concerns of catching the virus.
“We are doing what we can to focus on what we can control,” the resident said. “This situation is very serious. It is a public health issue. The virus is spreading very fast. And our response should be faster than the virus.”
The family is now focused on getting through the next 14 days.
“I am anxious (about the risk of catching COVID-19). Let’s see what happens. I am playing with my children. And my wife is preparing new kinds of food. Stay positive and stay active. That is how we’re going to get through it,” they said.
‘This is not a joke, this really happening’
Ms Elma and her housemate Kristine Villaranta – who is also a nurse – are also trying to keep a positive mindset, but are concerned for themselves and their patients.
“When we found out that we need to quarantine for 14 days, I was really frustrated and stressed at the same time,” Ms Villaranta told SBS News.
“Considering I work in [a] hospital, of course, I am concerned for my colleagues in the hospital. We are catering to a lot of patients.”
Ms Villaranta said she is “very paranoid” aboutt the risk of becoming infected.
“This is not a joke. This is really happening,” she said.
“Before, they said it was only one unit affected. And now it has spread to four units. Considering we only share one foyer and one lift – and this is a very small space (the virus has spread quickly).”
‘Lessons need to be learned’
Liverpool City councillor Charishma Kaliyanda said she was notified by residents in the apartment block several days ago about the lag in direct communication of the initial COVID-19 case.
“It is concerning to me to hear about the delay of days,” she told SBS News. “We know with the Delta variant, speed of notification is important in preventing the spread of the virus, especially in high-density apartment complexes.”
Ms Kaliyanda said she was told by NSW Health that responsibility to contact residents directly in apartment complexes fell on strata management.
“I was actually quite surprised by this, given the amount of focus that has been on household transmission – and the level of infectiousness of this Delta variant of the COVID virus in contained spaces,” she said.
She said she has raised with NSW Health a need to provide guidance on improved notification and advice on how building management and health authorities can inform residents of public health measures to contain the spread of the virus.
“Residents are bracing for weeks of uncertainty and need to protect themselves. For this apartment block, it is some reassurance to have resources in place,” she said.
“But there may be other apartment blocks – high-density living arrangements – with a positive COVID case that may need a plan in place. Lessons need to be learned and strategies put in place as quickly as possible to prevent further COVID spread.”
NSW Health has been contacted for comment.
The Liverpool apartment lockdown is the fourth across Sydney since the latest outbreak started in June.
On Wednesday, nine cases were recorded across seven units in the Emerald building on Warby Street in Campbelltown.
Two other cases were documented in apartment blocks in Blacktown and Bondi Junction.