Coronavirus cluster at Melbourne’s Al-Taqwa College grows to 113, but how it started remains a mystery
It is the largest outbreak in Australia ever. The politically correct have nowhere to hide now. An Islamic school went ballistic with covid-19 cases. No mystery to anybody else, Islamic’s are simply put, very unclean people. Eat with their right hand, wipe their bums with their left hand then purify themselves by washing their feet. These people have been pandered to long enough, Dopey Dan loves them as we all get culturally enriched. According to the experts coronavirus is a killer but hey, that’s the price we have to pay for their filthy habits and behaviour. No more. This has been going on for moths and no action.
Faikha Schroeder was enjoying the first day of school holidays when she received a text message — one of her teaching colleagues at Al-Taqwa College, in Melbourne’s outer west, had tested positive for COVID-19.
- The Al-Taqwa College cluster is the largest in Victoria, with 113 cases
- Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there was “an epidemiological link” between the college cluster and the outbreak in Melbourne’s public housing towers
- Principal Omar Hallak said staff “tried our utmost” to prevent an outbreak, including spending $100,000 on additional cleaning and hygiene measures
That was on June 27. On July 1 came another message from the school — all teachers had to be tested.
Ms Schroeder, a secondary teacher, tested negative the first time but has since been asked to take a second test and is awaiting the results.
She still doesn’t know which of her colleagues tested positive, or the source of the cluster, which today grew by 6 to reach 113 cases, making it the largest outbreak in Victoria.
But she confirmed to the ABC that children who live in locked-down public housing blocks in Melbourne’s inner-north-west attended the school, raising the possibility that the college cluster resulted in infections in the nine towers.
“We run a school bus from that area,” she said, adding that it was common for children to travel large distances to the school.
Late on Thursday afternoon, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton confirmed there was “an epidemiological link” between the two clusters.
But he reiterated it would remain difficult to pinpoint the exact source of the virus in the towers.
“It might have gone in one direction, it might have gone in the other direction, indeed there might be multiple importations into these towers.”
Professor Sutton said on Monday that it would be almost impossible to identify the source of the public housing towers cluster, meaning that it too could be linked to the college.
“Sometimes the first case that’s notified to us is not the first case in an outbreak,” Mr Sutton said.
“Sometimes the first person who develops symptoms is not the first person who’s been exposed. So it is tricky in that regard.”
The health department has previously linked the outbreak at Al-Taqwa to separate clusters in Sunshine West and Truganina.
The first cases at the school appeared around the same time as community transmission began to spike across Melbourne.
But it remains unclear how one teacher who became infected at the end of term could be responsible for a cluster which spread to more than 100 people.
Staff were vigilant, teacher says
Al-Taqwa College principal, Omar Hallak, warned parents and students back in April about the perils of not taking the virus seriously, and implored them to listen to official messaging.
“I would ask all teachers please accept the position of our Government and protect your family and do not send them outside,” he said on the eve of the term one school holidays.
“That is very important to follow the direction of Government and department.”
When school reopened after term one, Ms Schroeder was vigilant, but not troubled.
“I was trying to follow protocols, hand-cleaning and so on,” she said.
“I was very careful interacting with the students, because I knew that it was more a risk of me transmitting it to them, than them transmitting to me.”
It was not until July 5 — more than a week after the first case was recorded — that Al-Taqwa College commented publicly about the outbreak.
There had already been 59 cases linked to the school.
“We regret to report that a number of our staff and students have tested positive for COVID-19,” Mr Hallak said in a statement.
“All staff and students have been asked to get tested immediately and have been placed in quarantine while DHHS [Department of Health and Human Services] continues their tracing and the College undergoes a deep clean.
“We have taken additional measures since the outbreak, including spending over $100,000 on additional cleaning and hygiene measures, involving an organisation approved by DHHS.
“However, unfortunately, this is out of our hands as it is with quite a few other schools around Victoria, around the nation and around the world, which is quite saddening.”
A growing student population
According to the school’s website, Al-Taqwa College was founded by Mr Hallak in 1986 after he realised the importance of educating young children in an Islamic environment.
He bought 50 acres of land in what was then the sparsely populated outskirts of Melbourne and started the school with 25 students in demountable buildings.
In the following three decades, the population of the school swelled to about 2,200 students, as the number of people living in the region quadrupled to more than 200,000.
In 2001, Mr Hallak’s son Mohammad was appointed vice-principal and business manager.
“Al-Taqwa College, the main campus of our business entity, has an annual turnover of more than AU$31 million dollars, employs over 300 staff and provides quality education to over 2,200 students,” Mohammad Hallak posted on his LinkedIn profile in 2017.