MELBOURNE, Australia – Ring Mayar knocks on doors in Melbourne’s western suburbs all day, asking residents if they have a cough, fever or chills.
Even if it doesn’t, he encourages them to get tested for the corona virus as the authorities are trying to catch up on a series of outbreaks that threaten to revise Australia’s success story in controlling the spread.
“It’s pretty daunting,” said Mayar, president of the South Sudanese Community Association in Victoria, who volunteered in one of the mostly immigrant communities where cases are increasing.
As everywhere in the world, the corona virus has found a hole in the Australian system: it spread in part due to sharing a cigarette lighter with security guards who work in a hotel where returning international travelers are quarantined.
It later spread to low-income areas in the Melbourne area with significant migrant populations, including a supermarket distribution center.
The increase shows that even in countries that appear to be on the right track to safely resume normal life, the virus can reappear quickly. The outbreaks in Victoria held up the reopening of state borders, undercut plans to create travel bubbles with other countries, and forced 300,000 people back into the block.
On Tuesday, the authorities said that people in the 10 worst affected postal codes would stay in their homes for the next four weeks to stop the virus from spreading. International flights were diverted from Melbourne, a city of nearly five million people, and an investigation into quarantine protocol violations was initiated.
Officials continued their door knocking and lightning tests, warning that the entire state of Victoria, Australia’s second largest state, could be affected if residents did not comply.
“If someone comes to your door and offers you a test, the correct answer is” yes, “said Daniel Andrews, the Prime Minister of Victoria, at a press conference On Wednesday. “If this continues to differ from us, we will all be banned,” he added.
Before the Victoria outbreaks, the country had only a handful of new cases every week and had started to loosen restrictions to reopen the country by the end of July.
In the past two weeks, however, Victoria has seen double-digit growth every day. Although this has faded compared to places like the United States, where tens of thousands of new cases occur every day, the surge has shaken the Australian authorities, who have seen the country’s extensive testing program and its premature locks as the key to its success.
The surge in Victoria is following a well-known pattern: public health officials around the world have warned that flare-ups are inevitable, even in countries where the virus has been largely suppressed, as people’s restrictions on movement are relaxed.
An outbreak in China Beijing was hit last month in connection with a food market, and the authorities responded with targeted closures and extensive testing, a model now being followed in Australia. In Singapore, the virus spread rapidly in dormitories with migrant workers.
In Australia, the corona virus has spread to Melbourne’s pockets, where government news has not always been effective due to language barriers and other issues such as mistrust of the authorities. The fear of testing for the virus is great, and people on low incomes may be less able to stay home from work if they are sick.
Some of these areas experience too High homelessness and overcrowding rates that make it difficult for people to adhere to socially distancing guidelines.
“If some of them don’t go to work and are not with JobKeeper and JobSeeker, they will remain in charity,” said Eddie Micallef, chairman of Victoria’s Ethnic Communities Council, referring to government subsidies.
The dangers were predicted in May when a group of doctors and experts warned the Australian government that it had missed an opportunity to protect migrant communities.
Mr. Micallef and other community leaders said that government and federal agency communications with high-risk groups were not enough to prevent infection. Some said that translated information took too long to reach and was not clear.
“You almost need a university degree to understand it,” said Mohammad Al-Khafaji, executive director of the Australian Councils for the Federation of Ethnic Communities, about a multi-page document about the corona virus that the government had translated into Arabic.
He and other experts also warned that police-enforced bans – especially in times of global police abuse control – could only harm and exacerbate communities that fear the authorities.
“We have to get people to understand the importance of being at home. It doesn’t happen through fines or through over-police, ”said Rebecca Wickes, associate professor of criminology and director of the Migration and Inclusion Center at Monash University in Melbourne. “It won’t lead to the behavior change we’re looking for.”
She added that a first wave of racism related to the coronavirus had been targeted Asian people, a second wave against migrants and ethnic communities, emerged from misunderstandings that these groups ignored public health advice.
Leaders of the Islamic community also said they were concerned that anti-Muslim sentiment had risen after reports that one of the Melbourne clusters was formed during an oath celebration last month.
It is not these underprivileged communities that deserve the blame, said Professor Wickes, but the “global citizens who return to Aspen from their cruises and ski trips. We seem to have forgotten the story of how this virus prevailed in Australia. “
For Mr. Mayar, removing the stigma of the virus and the racism associated with it is associated with every knock on a door: although he wears gloves and takes care to keep a distance of two meters between himself and the residents, he does not wear a mask .
He recognizes the associated risks. “But in the end we are human and don’t want to look like aliens,” he said. “Even when we meet someone who is sick, we have to show our compassion.”