Premier Dan Andrews has confirmed that eight of the nine public housing towers that had been previously placed under strict police-controlled “hard” lockdown will be moved back to softer movement restrictions, following the completion of COVID-19 testing operations today.

Only the tower at 33 Alfred St in North Melbourne will continue to have hard quarantine restrictions enforced, with all other towers set to move to Stage 3 restrictions – which now apply to every other citizen of the Melbourne Metropolitan Area – over the coming days.

Two towers – at 9 Pampas St and 159 Melrose St – recorded no positive cases of coronavirus. Six other towers were found to have very low positive coronavirus cases. Those eight towers will be moved to Stage 3 restrictions from around midnight tonight. Close contacts of positive cases in affected towers will be given the opportunity to be transported away from the tower by ambulance transport to hotel quarantine, where the remainder of a 14-day isolation period will be spent.

The Alfred St tower, according to figures, has recorded 53 positive cases as part of the testing blitz. Premier Andrews asserted that, given the amount of positive cases, it is in the best health interests to assume everyone in the tower is a close contact of a positive case. That tower will remain under hard quarantine lockdown for 9 further days, making up an entire 14-day quarantine period. For residents in those towers, the only acceptable reason to leave their units will be to seek medical treatment, and for supervised daily exercise. Police will maintain a strong presence at that tower.

The police presence at the other towers, which has been hugely criticised for its punitive implications, will be rolled back significantly. However light police presence will remain on ground levels.

Deep cleaning efforts on every floor of every tower will continue, as will regular spot checks on residents temperatures. Health officials anticipate that more positive cases in the towers may yet be uncovered.

Premier Andrews stated that the decision to keep Alfred St in hard lockdown was one made based on an “abundance of caution approach,” that “not only protects the welfare and the wellbeing, the health, of all of those residents, but also protects public health as well.”

“We are in a strategy at the moment to try and drive down numbers. We, therefore, need to take some hard decisions, difficult decisions, but those based on medical advice in order to achieve both good outcomes for individuals and their families, but good outcomes for communities and, indeed, our whole state as well,” Andrews said.

Relief and support groups remain on site at the towers ensuring residents receive adequate food and care. The official Government response has been heavily criticised by tower residents themselves, who called the food supply drops “inadequate” and likened the hard lockdowns to prison.

Image: Getty Images / Darrian Traynor