Large groups of meth and heroin addicts have been gathering outside Melbourne’s controversial injecting room to shoot up in broad daylight during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Disturbing pictures taken on Monday show addicts without masks brazenly injecting themselves outside the North Richmond facility.
By 10am a several users had gathered on the footpath with syringes in hand.
Several addicts could be seen sharing needles as residents came and went from the nearby medical centre.
One man could be seen pulling down his pants as he injected himself in his lower torso.
Once the group dispersed another man wearing a face mask made his way to a phone booth where he was seen injecting into his forehead.
Syringes were later seen scattered across the footpath along with broken glass and discarded cigarette butts.
A bystander told Daily Mail Australia it common for the area, and most residents seemed to just ignore the group.
‘It didn’t seem like people were that shocked,’ he said.
‘Most of the people there were there to do drugs. It almost seemed like they were just free to do their thing.’
The witness said it appeared that most users lived in the area but he did see some jump in taxis once they were done.
Healthcare workers were later seen handing out care packages to users in the area.
The images come after the facility was hit with two cases of COVID-19.
The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed there had been two cases linked to the facility, the first was reported on August 10 and the second on August 17.
The centre was thoroughly cleaned on both occasions but has been operating as normal as it’s considered a life-saving health service.
An NRCH spokesperson said they had been taking all precautions they could to limit the risk of COVID-19.
He said every client is screened upon entry to ensure they aren’t showing any coronavirus symptoms before being given a face mask.
‘The centre is cleaned thoroughly during and outside of the operating hours,’ he said.
‘The centre plays a critical role in helping limit the spread of COVID-19 by helping identify and support vulnerable members of our community who test positive to the virus.’
Melbourne’s lockdown has seen residents banned from leaving their homes from 8pm to 5am.
However, the injecting room has been able to stay open until 9pm on weeknights.
Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the facility would stay open during the strict lockdown because it is health facility helping to save lives.
‘The facility plays an important role in slowing the spread of coronavirus in the North Richmond community as many of its clients would not otherwise have access to screening, testing, face masks and important public health messages,’ he told The Herald Sun.
The North Richmond Community Health building on Lennox Street was opened in 2018 in a bid to curb the drug epidemic which killed 30 people in one year in the so-called ‘heroin rectangle’ surrounding the centre.
But locals believe the move has turned the neighbourhood into a drug mecca, with streets littered with discarded needles.
A spokeswoman from Victoria police said officers use their discretion when it comes to users around the facility to allow the trial to operate for its purpose.
‘If police come across a person who is using drugs, there are a range of options available to police that allow for more therapeutic outcomes which include cautioning and diversions into treatment programs.’
Outraged residents have taken to Facebook groups to share footage of public drug taking as they lobby to have the facility moved to a different area, saying the situation is ‘completely out of control.’
One photo shared to a local social media group campaigning to have the injecting room moved showed a syringe discarded in a children’s playground.
Complaints about drug users not wearing face masks in North Richmond have become so vocal state Liberal MP Craig Ondarchie has asked for more police to patrol the area.
‘That is unacceptable during this pandemic when so many Victorians are obeying the rules,’ he said in state parliament.
The state government has re-assured residents ‘high-visibility’ patrols are in place to target crime and catch those violating public health laws enforcing the use of face masks.
In June, mother Charlotte Spencer-Roy revealed she regularly found people using drugs in the lane beside her North Richmond home.
Her nine-year-old son, Angus, was traumatised after discovering a man who had apparently overdosed laying unconscious outside their home just 10 minutes from the injecting room.
‘He said ”mummy, mummy there’s a dead body”,’ Ms Spencer-Roy told Nine News at the time.
Ms Spencer-Roy opened her door as two men scrambled to pick up their drug paraphernalia.