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‘Don’t give up’: Melbourne local council Mayor tells residents to be hopeful as COVID-19 declines in Victoria

Medical staff with bags of clinical waste is seen at St. Basil's Homes for the Aged in Victoria in Fawkner, Melbourne, Monday, July 27, 2020. Source: AAP Image/Daniel Pockett

Moreland Council in Melbourne has been severely hit by COVID-19 clusters and hotspots, including several deaths at the St. Basil’s aged care facility. Council Mayor Lambros Tampinos says deviation from restrictions could “undo the sacrifices” made so far.

The Mayor of the Moreland Council (population of around 187,600), Lambros Tapinos, is hopeful that despite the many losses the council residents are winning the war against the virus.

“We have seen too many people, residents of Fawkner in the nursing homes, residents of Moreland, we have lost too many lives already.

“A lot of those people were first-generation migrants from the multicultural background; they have been hit hard during this pandemic.


  • More than 20 deaths at St Basil's aged care facility
  • Over 50 languages spoken by residents of the Council
  • Council Mayor hopeful of winning the war but concerned about people deviating from the roadmap

The Mayor also has a clear message for everyone, “Don’t give up, this is like a war scenario.”

“We are at war with an invisible enemy, a virus, … and it has been tough for everyone.

“People have lost their lives, their jobs, their livelihoods, but the number priority is the health and safety of our people. This is what we need to protect, we need to save lives.

This is not a time for political point-scoring or blaming people. This is the time to help our health authorities, support the government and its approach and help do whatever we can to beat this virus.

 A resident is removed from St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner, Melbourne, Friday, July 31, 2020
A resident is removed from St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner, Melbourne, Friday, July 31, 2020

Victoria has recorded 35 new cases and seven deaths at the beginning of this week, confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The state's death toll from the virus is now 730 taking the nation’s total figure to 817.

"If you project forward 14 days, you would expect the 14-day rolling average to the end of September would be absolutely no more than 48," Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

As of 14th September 2020, there have been 1,025 positive cases in the Moreland Council and currently facing 59 active cases.

In the last 2 weeks, 7075 tests have been conducted in the council and 35 (0.5%) tests were positive.

At the St Basil aged care facility in the Fawkner suburb, more than 20 deaths have occurred due to the virus. Victoria's state coroner is investigating the deaths of five residents at the aged care.

SBS Urdu spoke to several residents of the Moreland Council about the challenges they are facing during the pandemic.

Aqeel Shah has been a resident of the Coburg suburb in the Moreland Council for the last 15 years. He says everyone in the neighbourhood is “extremely frustrated.

“We have stayed in during Ramadan, during Eid and now during the month of Muharram, we stayed in and have been following the restrictions.

“But the lockdowns are being extended for far too long; people are tired and exhausted.

“It is good to see the declining rate of COVID-19, but if the numbers don’t decline further, will the government extend the lockdown?”


Protesters walk past a sign during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, Sunday, September 13, 2020.
Protesters walk past a sign during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, Sunday, September 13, 2020.
AAP Image/Erik Anderson

Faisal Rao, a resident of Fawkner for the last three years, used to take his three year-old-son and 20 month-old daughter to the park frequently.

“Since the restrictions, we have been stuck in the house. There are no places we can go and relax, even the mosque is closed for prayers.

“We are exhausted.”

Faisal says the council and state authorities are working to help the residents which can bee seen in numbers.

“It is good to see the numbers declining and we hope things improve in the future.”

Sara Salman, a resident of Fawkner says her family of four including a five-year-old daughter, two and a half-year-old sons are “too afraid” in the pandemic.

“We are in the lockdown for more than three months. It is not easy, you can’t go out, you can’t meet people, there is no life.

“My daughter stopped going to the kindergarten and all her activities had stopped. She is learning at home but it has been too long now.”

 Police arrest a protester during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, Sunday, September 13, 2020.
Police arrest a protester during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, Sunday, September 13, 2020.
AAP Image/Erik Anderson

Although there has been a decline in the COVID-19 cases, Mayor Tapinos told SBS Urdu that he is concerned about people deviating from the restrictions and not listening to the health authorities.

“The numbers are coming down, but if people start not following the advice, if people start believing conspiracy theories reading on the internet, that is all working against us.

“All of this will undo the sacrifices that we have made already.”


Engaging with Multicultural communities during COVID-19 restrictions

Moreland Council is home to more than 10,000 people with low-level or no spoken English language skillset.

Around 50 languages are spoken in the council including Italian, Greek, Arabic, Mandarin, Turkish, Vietnamese, Urdu, Cantonese, Hindi, and Nepali.

Mayor Tapinos says most of the contact with the community is over the telephone or via video chats.

“We have to make sure our multicultural communities understand the health advice given by the health department, but also to provide other services, if they need food or accommodation, or trying to get tested or even employment.”

“We are engaging with people to learn how to use teleconferencing software, such as Zoom. To some elderly residents, we have given Ipad to borrow, so they can connect with their families and friends.”


Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 9pm and 5am. During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons. 

Between 5am and 9pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative. The full list of restrictions can be found here.

All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at