City council to shut its libraries, gyms, to protect staff and stop virus spread

Melbourne City Council will close its public libraries, swimming pools, gyms and arts venues today until at least the end of the month.

Many other councils are likely to follow suit as the local government sector reacts to the spread of the COVID-19.

Lord mayor Sally Capp.Credit:Joe Armao

Lord mayor Sally Capp said the move was designed to try to help slow the spread of coronavirus within the City of Melbourne's workforce, and within the community.

The city council will close six libraries and four pools and gyms from 2pm today. A statement said they would be shut until March 31, but that this could be extended.

A spokesman for the Municipal Association of Victoria, which represents councils across the state, said it had not yet advised councils to close libraries and gyms but was following all advice from state health authorities.

Melbourne City Council will keep its childcare centres open, and continue to operate all of its other services including waste and recycling, parking enforcement, and its planning and building departments.

Cr Capp said none of the council’s staff members at any libraries or sports centres had been diagnosed with coronavirus but that closing them would protect workers and slow the spread of the virus within the community.

“Our libraries, recreation and cultural centres are important community meeting places so this is not a decision we take lightly,” she said.

She said while it was important for the city council to rise to the challenges that coronavirus presented, Melbourne needed to “continue to be a caring city during this period and look out for each other wherever possible”.

The city libraries to close are the City Library in Flinders Lane, the Kathleen Syme library in Carlton, the Library at The Dock in Docklands, East Melbourne library, North Melbourne library and Southbank Library at Boyd.

Gyms and swimming pools to shut are the Melbourne City Baths, Kensington Recreation Centre, the Carlton Baths and the North Melbourne Recreation Centre.

Arts venues to close are the Meat Market, Signal, ArtPlay and Arts House.

Cr Capp said it was crucial the city council continued to look after vulnerable people such as the elderly and rough sleepers.

“This is a time when we need to look out for all members of our community,” she said.

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