Victoria pledges to 'double efforts' to reach multicultural communities in virus hotspots

A medical worker takes a sample from a person at a drive-through COVID-19 pop-up testing clinic at the Keilor Community Hub in Melbourne Source: AAP

Six local government areas across Greater Melbourne have been declared COVID-19 hotspots.

Multicultural groups have welcomed a pledge from Victoria’s Health Minister to increase its efforts to provide in-language coronavirus support as Melbourne grapples with a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Victoria has recorded 133 COVID-19 cases over the past week.

As a result, six local council areas - Hume, Casey, Brimbank, Moreland, Cardinia and Darebin - have been declared virus hotspots with residents urged to limit their travel.

Medical workers look on before taking a sample from a person at a drive-through COVID-19 pop-up testing clinic at the Keilor Community Hub in Melbourne
Medical workers look on before taking a sample from a person at a drive-through COVID-19 pop-up testing clinic at the Keilor Community Hub in Melbourne
AAP

Victoria’s government says the recent rise in case numbers has come from large family gatherings.

In response, health authorities will ramp up testing in those areas and also increase messaging to Victorians from diverse backgrounds.

"We want to make sure that everyone in the state understands the public health messaging,” Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told a press conference.

“We acknowledge the challenges in some communities for whom English may not be their first language in understanding the public health messaging, and this is why we are going to double our efforts in working with those communities.”

“There are very strong pockets of disadvantage in some of these communities, so we want to make sure that people are receiving this message, regardless of their language...and so that people don't have any anxiety about getting tested because it might have implications for their working arrangements."

Eddie Micallef, chair of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, welcomed the news that the state government would work to improve its in-language COVID-19 advice.

“Given that some of these communities are isolated and difficult to reach, I think the more resources, especially in their first language...is a step in the right direction,” he told SBS News.

“Provided they get the appropriate information and support by their leaders, their church groups, and the government putting in resources, I think we can get back to where we were in a much more comfortable position in combating the virus.”

But he also cautioned against “pointing the finger” at those living in areas that have been designated COVID-19 hotspots.

“I think it's not fair to say that they're responsible for the statistics,” he said.

“Some communities fighting on a number of fronts, combating racism, combating unemployment, hardship, social isolation, all these sorts of issues.”

The City of Brimbank in Melbourne’s west has 11 active COVID-19 cases and is also one of greater Melbourne’s more diverse boroughs.

Within the local government area is the Cedar Meats abattoir, linked to one of the nation’s biggest outbreaks.

A separate outbreak linked to a family gathering in Keilor Downs has resulted in 11 new cases in nine households.

“As one of Melbourne’s most multicultural communities, with almost 50 per cent of residents speaking a language other than English at home, we welcome any efforts from the state government to increase engagement with multicultural communities to support them during the COVID-19 health emergency,”  Mayor Georgina Papafotiou said.
 
She also urged health authorities to recognise that providing in language support needs to go beyond simple translation and interpreter services. 

“Our bilingual workers also support some people of CALD background that may not be literate in their first language to assist in explaining important messages.”

“We believe this approach would be effective with important health messages concerning COVID-19.”

Victoria's state health department said coronavirus information has been translated into 53 languages, and advertisements had been run in 22 languages. 

"We're continuing to hold community roundtables to help understand diverse community experiences during the pandemic and to explore further opportunities for advice and education," a spokesman said.

"We have also started broader community engagement and education today through outreach, doorknocks and calls in coronavirus hotspot areas, which will be delivered appropriately for culturally and linguistically diverse communities."

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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