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Issue #1927      August 10, 2020

Victoria’s COVID-19 crisis continues

While regional Victoria moves into Stage Three Restrictions, Melbourne is now under Stage Four restrictions.

This includes mandatory masks, curfew between 8 pm and 5 am, increased police fines and presence, only one person per household per day to buy essentials, nobody allowed to leave 5 km of their homes, unless for work, and across Victoria high school students in years ten, eleven, and twelve have been transitioned to remote learning.

Workers whose hours are during curfew can apply for an “after hours permit” to show police and ADF members. For the rest of us, if we are out past curfew unless its for an emergency, essential health, care, safety or to escape domestic violence.

Lack of human capital

Again, we are seeing a typical response of a liberal, capitalist government. The bottom line is that the only properly funded infrastructure the government has access to is the police and the defence force. After decades of privatisation and neo-liberal policies, the rest of our infrastructure has been increasingly privatised.

Without a government that prioritises the mass line and the organisation of the people, then communities cannot have autonomy and the connections to defend the public against the virus.

When compared to socialist countries, our government is taking anti-people punitive measures. In Vietnam, when lockdowns were announced communities were taken care of with free delivered meals and essentials.

In China, we saw similar with volunteers out in the public checking people’s temperature, checking entry and exit permits, and asking if they need any help with essentials.

In Cuba, President Díaz-Canel said that surviving Western aggression and the effects of COVID-19 is only possible because of “human capital.”

We have quite a different story here where we not only lack this “human capital,” but our mutual aid networks now fear the police might target them with fines or brutality, as we saw for volunteers at the public housing lockdown.

Police powers

The Victorian government have ramped up COVID-19 fines. People who have been instructed to self-isolate, but are not, can face up to $5,000 in fines or up to $20,000 if they consistently refuse to cooperate.

On Sunday, 2nd August, Victorian police issued 170 fines in only twenty-four hours totally $250,000. Where is this money going? Will it go straight back into the bloated Victorian police budget? Or will the Premier announce that it will use the money to invest in the severely neglected public industry?

A recent article in The Age also pointed out that disadvantaged areas make up ten per cent of COVID-19 fines, whereas advantaged areas only make up 1.9 per cent of the fines.

Police also have detention powers under the declared State of Disaster. They are free to detain anyone who they believe is not obeying COVID-19 orders. This is a scary reality for Black, migrant and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are consistently racially profiled by the police and whose minor crimes can turn into death sentences in custody.

Police have been smashing through car windows to issue fines and collect personal details. While it’s important that we make sure the public is responsible, these measures can be dangerous.

It’s also important to acknowledge the cause of “anti-maskers”, the people who are purposely risking public health. Anti-maskers reflect a deeply liberal culture that spawns “personal freedom” fanatics.

Prisons

In Victoria’s prisons, the cases have steadily growing to more than twenty. Corrections Victoria have announced that all new prisoners are to be tested and put under “protective quarantine” for fourteen days. Overcrowding in Victoria’s prison system creates a hot bed for COVID-19 spread. About thirty-seven per cent of Victoria’s prison population is on remand and could be granted bail to lesson the risk.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people disproportionately make up Victoria’s prison population as well and so Aboriginal legal services are calling for the government to empty prisons of any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people before another death in custody.

But what has been the government’s response? Reopening the Christmas Island detention centre to “relieve capacity pressure across the detention network in Australia.”

Aged care

Aged care has been the hardest hit spot for COVID-19 outbreaks. Over 1,000 COVID-19 cases and seventy-seven deaths in Victoria are linked to aged care facilities. Most of these deaths and cases come from one of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s facilities, St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner.

Serious reports of St Basil’s mistreatment have been published in the media such as dehydration and lack of food or support. A friend of the Party told us her family’s experience with St Basil’s, where she said it took five days after a confirmed case before residents and staff were tested, with only “close contacts” of the staff member asked to be tested.

Fourteen days after the first case, the private St Basil’s staff were evacuated and replaced by Aspen Medical contractors acting on behalf of the government. She told us that the new health team has no way of communicating with patients because of the language barriers and staff can’t even identify patients.

She said: “My grandma was admitted to hospital only after concerted picketing of the facility [from the family] and constant media pressure. She was found to have severe dehydration, fluid in her lungs and hadn’t been fed in days.”

The outbreaks and mistreatment in aged care is a product of the federal government’s increased privatisation of healthcare industry. Another cause is the complete and utter failure of the Royal Commission into aged care. The pandemic has left an already crumbling industry in shambles.

Instead of aged care focusing on providing support for our elderly, it has become an opportunity for the bourgeoisie to turn a profit. Sydney Morning Herald published an article recently about the two owners of a handful of aged care facilities across NSW and Victoria and their “lavish lifestyles” of mansions and luxury cars. They claim that their facilities were prepared for COVID-19, yet one of the aged care facilities they own, Epping Gardens Aged Care, has over 130 cases.

It is criminal that aged care owners are able to siphon off profits at the detriment of the health and well-being of others. How can aged care workers be prepared when seventy-five per cent of aged care workers surveyed by United Workers’ Union don’t have enough staff to provide quality care? The industry needs to be wholly publicly owned and properly staffed and trained in order to avoid unnecessary deaths and neglect.

Next article – Supply-side economics

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