Australia Calls to release Shepparton from lockdown as it records no new COVID cases for a third day
Cafes, bottle shops and RSL club are put on alert for Covid in NSW
Several venues in regional NSW have been declared Covid exposure sites, including cafes, bottle shops and a busy RSL club, as NSW admits its giving up on reporting all of Sydney's exposure sites.But the latest alert comes as NSW Health admitted it has all but given up on reporting every venue of concern in the state, as the number of exposure sites across Sydney continues to pile up.
Greater Shepparton has not recorded a new case of COVID since Saturday and there are now calls for the town to be released from lockdown.
Last week, Premier Daniel Andrews flagged restrictions in Shepparton could be realigned with the rest of regional Victoria at some stage this week but at today's press conference Deputy Premier James Merlino said there were no further announcements to make.
President of the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry John Anderson said the latest outbreak and level of restriction was taking a mental toll on residents and local businesses.
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"The local businesses are obviously very concerned, and in some cases quite distressed, at the fact that we're in such a hard lockdown and other regions have come out," he said.
There are now only 38 active cases of COVID in Shepparton.
Whilst all cases are linked and in isolation, there are still a handful of exposure sites in and around the community.
Mr Anderson said the decreasing number of active cases should be enough of a reason for restrictions to ease and Shepparton to join the rest of regional Victoria.
"[Hopefully] we can look forward to being treated the same as the other regions by the end of this week," he said.
Mr Anderson said current restrictions in place across regional Victoria were not enough to warrant certain industries reopening.
The restriction changes coming to regional Victoria
Regional Victoria, except for Greater Shepparton, is set to come out of lockdown from 11.59pm tomorrow. However, restrictions will remain in place.The rule change has been announced after the state recorded 221 new cases of coronavirus today, including five in regional Victoria.
"Everyone wants to be able to trade. They don't really want to live off handouts," he said.
Mr Anderson says the current patron caps for venues that only allow 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors are not realistic.
"It's pretty much impossible for most businesses to be able to operate, to be able to provide food in particular, when they can have so few people seated," he said.
It's a view shared by Nationals Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy who agrees the patron cap should increase.
"It's barely viable for some of these places to open," Mr Mcurdy said.
"For many businesses, [easing restrictions has] made no difference. In fact, it's made it more frustrating for them.
"We've got venues in regional Victoria that can hold over 1,000 people but they can [currently] only have 10 people," he said.
Density limits benefit business
Across the border, the NSW government has introduced density limits that allow larger venues to have more patrons whilst maintaining COVID-safe practices.
Most of regional Victoria to exit lockdown
All of regional Victoria except Greater Shepparton will come out of lockdown at midnight on Thursday, but strict rules will remain.Victoria recorded 221 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with a handful of new cases reported in regional areas including the Latrobe Valley, Moorabool, Mitchell Shire and the Bellarine Peninsula.
Mr McCurdy said an approach similar to this would benefit the economy.
"[In Victoria] it just doesn't matter how big your venue is, how many rooms you've got — you're capped at 10 [people] inside and 20 outside which does seem ridiculous," he said.
"Those density limits would be far more commonsense and a better result for everyone."
Mr McCurdy is lobbying the government to make changes and is hoping for a more clear roadmap with specific targets to be released.
"NSW is demonstrating that they've got a plan. We're hoping to see a plan," he said.
"People just need a ray of hope … you just need to be able to look forward."
Shepparton locals share a message of hope as Ballarat prepares to re-enter lockdown .
For weeks, it's been quiet on the streets of Shepparton, but now that's about to change – much to the relief of its residents. (Supplied) It's been a tough couple of months for musician Jonathan Safari, living in the regional Victorian town of Shepparton."There's no shows, there's no events, there's no gigs, there's no money," he said. But on Wednesday, the 20-year-old hip hop artist and producer was ecstatic."I'm super, super happy to be coming out of lockdown — I can't wait to be able to see my friends again, hang out, go to the studio and make more music," he said.