Australia

Greg Hunt warns Melbourne COVID-19 spike has potential to cause second wave

Minister for Health Greg Hunt says borders will remain shut for a significant amount time. Source: AAP

Victoria has recorded double-digit growth in new coronavirus cases for the seventh day in a row.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has warned a spike in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne has the potential to cause Australia's second wave of infections.

"We're very concerned about the Victorian cases, whilst it's being well-managed, it can go one of two ways – we can get it under control or the numbers can continue to spike which would be a real issue," he told SBS News on Tuesday.

Active cases in the state have more than doubled in a week with 17 new infections on Tuesday, taking the total to more than 130.

Mr Hunt said these numbers do not constitute a second wave "but if it were to get out of hand, it does have that potential".

Don't hug nonna

Mr Hunt said he wants to see public health messaging reach as many multicultural Australians as possible, especially amid the Melbourne spike.

There are six coronavirus hotspots in Melbourne that are subject to travel warnings – Darebin, Moreland, Brimbank, Hume, Cardinia and Casey.

All have above state-average diversity levels, with sizable populations that speak a language other than English at home.

The six hotspots in Melbourne.
The six hotspots in Melbourne.
SBS News

Mr Hunt told SBS News there are a number of government resources available for Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

"[And] to those who might be younger members of the Australian community, with older family members who may not speak English or have easy access to English-language messaging, please pass on the messages," he said.

"Even though it's natural to hug nonna, or somebody else, keep that physical distancing."

A drive-through COVID-19 testing facility in Melbourne.
A drive-through COVID-19 testing facility in Melbourne.
Getty

Mr Hunt said it was also vital for anyone in Victoria who has cold or flu-like symptoms to be tested for COVID-19.

"If you are ill, stay home other than to go to the doctor or for testing," he said.

'There are a lot of people missing out'

Multicultural groups welcomed increased efforts to provide more coronavirus support to multicultural Australians.

But Eddie Micallef from the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria said more can be done.

"There are a lot of people missing out. And how you get to those communities, or members of those communities that are missing out is a real challenge," he said.

It comes after a University of Sydney study found official pandemic material in languages other than English had not been disseminated effectively, meaning uptake and engagement was limited.

But there are concerns that singling out certain groups could lead to an increase of COVID-fuelled racism.

"It can be misconstrued by sectors of the community and feeds into their racism and paranoia, and they'll use that," Mr Micallef said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday state teams will be working hard to overcome any language barriers to ensure the public is informed of the risks.

"There is literally an army of people going out door knocking. There will be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people from our expanded public health team out there door knocking in hotspot suburbs and other areas if that is deemed appropriate," he said.

"They will do that job providing public health advice, making sure that everybody is aware of language and other issues won't be a barrier. It is standing up now but will expand in the next couple of days."

Additional reporting: Abby Dinham

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

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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