Promising two weeks of free rent and hardship payments to the residents, Mr Andrews said public health workers would test every resident of the buildings, except those who have previously tested positive.
The premier of Victoria has defended his decision to put nine public housing towers in a complete lockdown as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Melbourne’s suburbs.
Australia’s second-most populous state reported 108 new cases on Saturday, prompting Premier Daniel Andrews to order about 3,000 people not to leave their homes for at least five days, with police in place to guard the buildings.
“This is not going to be a pleasant experience for those residents, but I have a message for those residents: this is not about punishment but protection,” he said in a televised conference.
The communal nature of the facilities, which house people on low incomes, has “genuinely explosive potential for the spread of the virus”, according to Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton.
In addition to the complete lockdown orders, more than 30 Melbourne suburbs are also under strict social-distancing orders – although people in those suburbs can leave their houses to go to work, school or to buy groceries.
Victoria officials said a further 74 people tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday.
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, reported 14 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, all involving returning travellers from overseas.
Overall, the country has weathered the coronavirus pandemic better than most other nations, with just over 8,400 cases and 104 deaths so far.
However, the recent spike in Victoria is being closely watched by the rest of the country, which has moved to ease restrictions.