At eight months pregnant, GP Farnoush Nia was still treating patients in the epicentre of Victoria’s second coronavirus wave.
Key points:More than 2,260 people have tested positive to coronavirus in the City of Wyndham The multiculturally rich area is the second-fastest-growing local government area in AustraliaAbout 25 active cases remain in the city
It was July and the number of COVID-19 cases in the City of Wyndham — a sprawling local government area on Melbourne’s western fringe — had started to climb.
Each morning, Dr Nia, who studied medicine in Iran before emigrating to Melbourne eight years ago, watched the daily figures with unease.
At her Truganina medical practice, where more than 100 patients eventually tested positive, the question persisted: should she really still be working while pregnant?
But to Dr Nia, the answer was always clear.
“I was trying to be more careful, but I absolutely could not stop working,” she told 7.30.
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“There were a lot of other people who I was looking after and I didn’t want to stop that and leave them unsupported and put another stress on them.”
Dr Nia was back at work two weeks after giving birth.(ABC News)
Dr Nia worked all the way until July 21, when the Department of Health and Human Services announced 374 new cases across the state. The following day, her son was born.
“After two weeks of having my baby, I came back to work … I just couldn’t sit there. I had to come back and look after them.
“I just feel this responsibility on my shoulders.”
The worst hotspot in Australia
About 25 active cases remain in the City of Wyndham, which has recorded a total of more than 2,260 over the entire course of the pandemic — more than any other council area in Australia.
The high numbers were due in large part to major clusters in aged care facilities Baptcare Wyndham Lodge and Glendale Aged Care, as well independent school Al-Taqwa College.
The multiculturally rich area is also the second-fastest-growing local government area in the nation and has seen massive job losses during the pandemic.
Dr Nia says she felt a responsibility to continue working, even while heavily pregnant.(ABC News)
Dr Nia said the area’s high numbers were partly due to a significant population of vulnerable people.
“Vulnerable can be due to a lot of things. It could be due to age. It could be due to different culture,” she said.
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Dr Nia and her GP practice advised hundreds of families and teachers during the outbreak at Al-Taqwa College.
“I think some of my patients did feel that there are some racist comments about why this has affected them, which is really sad and unfair, because I think they did the right thing from the start,” she said.
She also said she had been referring a lot more people to psychologists during this time and had also seen an increase prescribing antidepressants.
‘The ambulances go flying past’ Werribee RSL president Daryl Ryan (centre) says the lockdown has been hard on veterans.(ABC News: Tom Joyner)
Werribee RSL president Daryl Ryan has lived in the area his whole life and seen the suburb of Werribee change from a country town into sprawling suburbia over his 71 years.
During lockdown, he and a handful of members have been doing general maintenance and upkeep on the old RSL building.
Each morning the men meet for a cup of tea and sausage roll, surrounded by silent pokie machines and empty tables.
“Before the lockdown, we would have probably 30 to 40 people in for a midday meal,” Mr Ryan said.
“At the moment, it feels like a morgue.”
Gaming machines at the Werribee RSL shut down due to COVID-19.(ABC News: Tom Joyner)
He said the social isolation had been hard on local veterans, who liked to gather together with people who had been through the same experiences.
“When Vietnam veterans or any veterans get together, you talk a different language. You go over the old times. You remember the good times, the sad times. You try to push them out of your mind.”
Mr Ryan said he and many people of his age in the Wyndham community had been fearful of getting COVID-19 during the pandemic, given such high numbers of cases in the area.
“I think everybody within the Wyndham city was very aware and cautious as to the, ‘Am I next?’
“The ambulances go flying past, ‘Is that someone else who has copped it?'”
‘We can bounce back’ Handyman Joey Gicoso and his wife, Marielle, with their daughter, Gia, at their home in Manor Lakes.(ABC News: Tom Joyner)
Joey Gicoso and his young family live in a new housing estate in Manor Lakes on Wyndham’s western fringe, so freshly built that cows still lazily graze in paddocks just across the road.
Mr Gicoso, who immigrated from the Philippines in the 1990s, had just started his local handyman business before the pandemic struck in March.
As people in the area began to lose work and income, his jobs began to get cancelled.
“During that time when there’s no money coming in, I have to access my super because the rents and bills are piling up,” he said.
“I have asked my landlord to reduce my payment, but I was unsuccessful.
“I have to think outside the box of what I can do to support my family. I started selling things online, Facebook Marketplace and stuff like that. And I had to maybe drive an Uber as well. But most of the time it’s just sitting in the car for a long time with no pings or no job.”
Joey Gicoso has faith that the community will bounce back after the pandemic.(ABC News: Tom Joyner)
In May, Mr Gicoso and his partner Marielle had their daughter Gia.
“My partner was diagnosed with postnatal depression as well … It’s really hard for especially young mamas while not to be able to socialise, being able to go out.”
But despite the isolation, Mr Gicoso believes the Wyndham community is strong.
“Wyndham is very resilient, and very durable,” he said.
“I believe that as a community, as a whole community, we can help each other out
“I think as a strong community in Wyndham, we can bounce back.”
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