Victoria Government Concerned Non-English Speakers Not Receiving Covid-19 Information

June 25, 2020 Updated: June 25, 2020

Victorian ethnic community groups are concerned non-English speakers with a low capacity to understand basic health information are the driving factors behind the continued growth of new coronavirus cases in Melbourne suburbs.

For the past eight days, Victoria has registered double-digit new COVID-19 cases with six Melbourne suburbs being identified as infection hotspots.

In response to the outbreak, authorities have strongly discouraged people from travelling to and from the areas of Brimbank, Hume, Casey, Moreland, Cardinia, and Darebin.

This worries the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria chairman Eddie Micall­ef, who explained to ABC radio on June 23 that Brimbank, Moreland and Cardinia have large migrant communities who may not necessarily understand the new health regulations.

Micallef said “The education tool or information that comes out may not be fully understood. The health literacy of those groups is not outstanding and sometimes their access to support services is below average.”

There are over 4,000 households where English is not spoken as a first language in Hume. A study done in 2016 by Hume City Council found that over 88,300 residents do not speak English at home. In Brimbank, 63.7 percent (39,352) of the households speak another language other than English.

State Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, who lives in Darebin, said the government has doubled its efforts in reaching non-English speaking residents and has translated coronavirus material into more than 50 languages. 

Micallef welcomed the news that the state government would work to improve its in-language COVID-19 advice.

Speaking to SBS News, Micallef said: “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.”

Speaking at a press conference on June 24, Victoria’s Chief Medical Officer Brett Sutton said that he had been working with ethnic communities in Melbourne on an ongoing basis.

Noting that it is a complex issue, Sutton said that the state government will need to step up its efforts to reach people as there are clusters of people not getting the right information.

“So we have to work with every single community member, and I think there are pockets and individuals and networks within every single community where there are suspicions about the key messages and where there is misinformation circulating quite freely, so we need to compete in that space, and make sure the evidence-based messages the things that we know have worked … are out there in full,” Sutton said.

People With Poor Health Literary At Risk

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care’s publication on Health Literacy points out that people with poor health literacy are at an increased risk of health issues.

“People with low levels of individual health literacy are one and a half to three times more likely to have an adverse health outcome,” the 2014 paper states.

Starting June 25, the Victorian government will begin a testing blitz in these areas in an attempt to suppress the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

The government has set a target of testing 10,000 people each day over 10 days, starting in Keilor Downs where a student at Keilor Downs Secondary College has been linked to 15 cases in that area.

As of June 24, the total number of virus cases in Victoria is 1,884, an increase of 20 since the day before.