Australia Regional Victoria's coronavirus cluster grows, but country lockdowns unlikely

10:51  21 july  2020
10:51  21 july  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a man wearing a suit and tie: Colac-Otway Shire mayor, Jason Schram, has called for his region to enter a two-week lockdown in response to a COVID-19 outbreak at a local abattoir. (ABC Ballarat: Evan Morgan Grahame) © Provided by ABC Health Colac-Otway Shire mayor, Jason Schram, has called for his region to enter a two-week lockdown in response to a COVID-19 outbreak at a local abattoir. (ABC Ballarat: Evan Morgan Grahame)

The State Government has all but ruled out the need for regional lockdowns as the number of coronavirus cases across country Victoria continues to climb.

There were 103 active COVID-19 cases in regional Victoria outside the lockdown zone on today — last week there were 32.

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Victoria saw a surge in coronavirus cases with 19 new cases recorded overnight Sunday — the There are currently no hotspots in regional Victoria . These hotspots take in suburbs on the west The two biggest family clusters in recent weeks are known as the Keilor Downs family cluster and the

Twenty-seven cases sit within the Colac Otway Shire area following an outbreak at the Australian Lamb Colac abattoir in the state's south-west.

Colac Otway Shire Mayor Jason Schram wants the Government to lock down the region so extensive contact tracing can take place to help contain the spread of the virus.

Premier Daniel Andrews said a lockdown was not off the table, but was not yet necessary.

"It's a significant challenge, but I don't think we're at a point yet where we'd move to a whole-of-local-government-area or a whole-of-township public health measure," Mr Andrews said.

"Provided that people follow the advice they've been given, we can limit the spread of the virus there."

Towns take matters into their own hands

Several businesses in Colac have closed voluntarily and the local council has shut its customer service centre and library until further notice.

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Victoria Police, who were seen present at the protest said organisers of the protest would be fined. "There is no excuse for deliberately flouting the If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020

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Trinity College Colac closed on Monday after a student there tested positive to the virus, but state and primary schools have been forced to remain open.

Among them is Colac's Sacred Heart Primary School, but only a handful of students have turned up since the outbreak.

"Normally we have 430 children in our school," principal Jack Lenaghan said.

"We had 10 yesterday and six today.

"We were closed when Victoria had 12 or 20 cases, and now there's 12 or 20 in Colac and we're not closed, which I find kind of inconsistent."

Victoria's Chief Medical Officer, Brett Sutton, said authorities would look at recommending tougher restrictions in regional areas if there was evidence community transmission was getting out of control.

"There was always an expectation that, because of essential work and essential reasons to travel, there would be some seeding of cases into those regional locations," he said.

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"Individual cases can be followed up — their contacts can be traced, they're being prioritised amongst all the new cases and contacts that we get every day, and there is every expectation that we can manage them.

"But we do have to see whether there are cases that emerge that we don't know where they acquired it, and if there’s increasing evidence of community transmission that's not coming under control, then I think that's when there's a consideration regarding further restrictions."

Lockdown leaks into East Gippsland

In the East Gippsland towns of Marlo and Orbost a number of businesses have closed after a visitor to the region later received a positive COVID-19 test.

Police said the woman was fined $1,652 for breaching the Chief Health Officer's directives.

Orbost Regional Health CEO, Vicki Farthing, said the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was carrying out contact tracing to work out where the person had been.

A mobile testing point will open tomorrow at the Orbost football ground to test close contacts of the patient.

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Victoria ’ s capital, Melbourne, is currently in a six-week lockdown as it attempts to get the caseload under control. Boris Johnson has played down the prospect of a second national coronavirus lockdown , saying he did not want to use it any more than Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent.

Marlo Beachside Takeaway & Kiosk owner, Brendan Coghlan, said local businesses had not been contacted by the DHHS but many had closed as a precautionary measure.

"I think everyone in town is just frustrated, angry, [and has] mixed emotions until people do and are able to get some testing done," Mr Coghlan said.

"I'd like to be able to go and get tested myself, and obviously staff, and make sure that we're OK to continue business.

"But until then, unfortunately, we'll have to keep doors shut and take another hit along with the bushfires and everything else this year."

Checkpoints 'weak', Drum says

The Federal Member for Nicholls, Damian Drum, says he's heard stories of residents from locked-down areas slipping through checkpoints and heading to regional tourism hotspots.

Mr Drum described the checkpoint between the infection areas and northern Victoria as "weak" and said his own staff had been waved through without being checked by police.

"We have an absolute soft marshmallow checkpoint, so soft you can drive through it whenever you want," he said.

He said it was worrying to see a tougher border for effectively "clean" regional residents on the Victorian-NSW border.

"I don't think there's anywhere near enough being done to stop the spread of the virus from those hotspots into regional Victoria," Mr Drum said.

"Why Daniel Andrews won't put such a hard, firm, serious lockdown around Melbourne and Mitchell has most people in the regions scratching their heads."

Trust the system, Premier says

The Premier used his daily briefing in Melbourne to defend the Department of Health and Human Services' contact tracing program.

The Opposition said the department failed to contact businesses and schools in Colac when the outbreak hit the south-west late last week.

Mr Andrews said any reports of unreasonable delays were "simply wrong".

"It's very easy to make some of those claims, I don't think that serves anyone's purposes," he said.

"The meatworks is closed down — every single staff member has been told they're a close contact.

"There are literally thousands and thousands of people, the biggest team ever, dealing with the biggest challenge we've ever faced.

"It's a big and complex task, but just because someone sends out a tweet saying a meatworks in Colac hasn't been contract traced, it's just wrong."

Fresh virus cluster spreads to five Chinese regions .
A fresh coronavirus cluster in a port city in northeast China has spread to other provinces and prompted fresh restrictions, authorities said Monday, as Beijing scrambles to prevent a second wave of infections. Health authorities said the Dalian cluster had now spread to nine cities in five regions across the country, including as far away as the southeast coastal province of Fujian. Fujian said the provincial capital Fuzhou would enter "wartime mode" after it discovered an asymptomatic patient who had travelled from Dalian, 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) away.

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