Australia Shepparton locals share a message of hope as Ballarat prepares to re-enter lockdown
Hundreds of Victorians line up for testing in Ballarat amid lockdown
Hundreds of Victorians are lining up for testing in Ballarat after the regional city plunged into a snap lockdown overnight. Queues at Ballarat testing sites have ballooned up to five hours long as locals rush to get tested for coronavirus in the region, with the earliest car arriving at 5am.The lockdown is due to end at 11.59pm on September 22, but there are fears it will be extended past seven days.
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.
"I'm actually even booking a first session with [my friends] this weekend, I just can't wait."
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.
Greater Shepparton has beenthat sent a third of the population into home quarantine.
When the rest of regional Victoria started tasting freedom last week, Shepparton was left locked down.
But now there are only 25 active cases in Greater Shepparton, and a run of "zero new cases" means the area is coming out of lockdown.
Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O'Keeffe couldn't be prouder of her region, and their efforts getting the outbreak under control through testing, quarantine and a.
"We were telling them to get tested and that's what they were doing," she said.
"I hope the rest of the state and the country, you know, looks at our community to say, 'Well, that can be done if you do the right thing'."
Abuse survivors of now-deceased priest line up to seek compensation
The first in a series of civil cases seeking compensation for abuse survivors and victims of a now-deceased paedophile priest is expected to begin in the Supreme Court on Monday. Bryan Coffey was found guilty in 1999 of 14 charges relating to indecent assaults on seven boys and one girl that took place across four Victorian parishes between 1960 and 1975.The complainants are seeking compensation for loss of income, pain and suffering, and medical expenses, and include children who were allegedly abused by Coffey in the south-west Victorian towns of Port Fairy, Terang and Yambuk, as well as Ouyen in the Mallee.
The region's efforts even earned the.
The impacts of the outbreak and lockdown have hit businesses and artists hard.
Mr Safari, who goes by the stage name Yungkily, had a gig planned for June.
"But we're heading to October, and now the gig is being cancelled every time," he said.
"Sometimes we get cancelled when it's like two days to the show. They say, 'We're going back to lockdown', and I'm like, 'Oh no, please'."
To help Shepparton artists who have lost work, Mr Safari created an online talent quest on his Instagram, with the $1,000 prize pool coming from his own pocket.
"I know it's not a lot, but I know that it can help someone," he said.
"There's a lot of talent here in Shepparton which the world needs to know. From Shepparton to the world — that's the direction."
Shepparton is one of the most culturally diverse towns in regional Victoria.
Mr Safari moved to the area as a refugee three years ago, after growing up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then Kenya.
Regional Victoria will come out of lockdown with schools to reopen
Regional Victoria will be lifted from lockdown on Friday, despite the state recording 221 new cases of coronavirus. Daniel Andrews has announced lockdown in regional areas, except Shepparton will end at 11.59pm Thursday. Businesses, offices and venues can reopen and operate at restricted capacity while students in kindergarten, years one, two, 11 and 12 will return to the classroom. Funerals will be permitted for up to 20 people while weddings can have up to 10.The only minor change for Melburnians is that single parents can now access childcare, regardless of whether they are an authorised worker.
He works at a not-for-profit organisation, Point of Difference, that supports the multicultural community and young people.
Mr Safari said the pandemic was taking a toll on Shepparton's youth.
"For me personally, I never thought mental health is a big problem or a big issue until it hit me," he said.
"When you're alone, you have nothing to do, that's when thoughts will start coming into your head."
He's proud that his community has supported each other during the outbreak.
"Everyone is there for each other," he said.
"It's a small community but there's a lot of love."
Donations pour in to help community
Last year, Azem Elmaz prepared free meals for people hit hard by COVID-19.
This year the demand has been far greater, and his kebab restaurant has been flat out.
"Last year, I used to do roughly 80 to 120 or 150 meals a day. Now we've jumped to 500 or 600 meals a day," Mr Elmaz said.
"We're getting text messages and we just drop the meals to them, but mainly [it's for] the families doing it a bit tough who lost their jobs.
"The last two weeks I started by 6:00am ... and I finished by 11:00pm at night."
Relief coming for millions of Melburnians as lockdown measures ease
Daniel Andrews is set to reward long-suffering Melburnians with new freedoms as a key single-dose vaccination target is reached, providing relief for millions enduring 229 days locked down.Daniel Andrews is poised to give long-suffering residents more freedoms after 70 per cent of the state have received their first vaccine dose, which is expected to come on Thursday.
Initially, Mr Elmaz's business was funding all the meals, but community donations have now flooded in to help the service continue.
"Almost $60,000 [in] donations. And I was really surprised, we were shocked," he said.
Ballarat back into lockdown as Shepparton tastes freedom
Vaccination numbers in the region have been steadily growing.
More than 73 per cent of Greater Shepparton residents over 15 have had one dose, while 40 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Raelene Wilson is part of the effort to get the region vaccinated.
She's a nurse leading a team at the Goulburn Valley Health vaccine centre at the Shepparton showgrounds.
"We always fill our appointments," Ms Wilson said.
"We are very fortunate this community wants to be vaccinated."
Ms Wilson is also one of 530 healthcare workers who were temporarily furloughed when her son's school became an exposure site.
She and her family live about 40 minutes from Shepparton's CBD, on a large property with plenty of room for her two sons to kick the footy and ride their bikes.
"We are just very fortunate to live where we do," she said.
But the rural location comes with some disadvantages – namely, no NBN.
"We have really poor internet connection," Ms Wilson said.
"So it's great when you can do things online with school and work but when you actually don't have great IT out where we live and great reception, it is really difficult."
Publicans in regional Victoria say new capacity restrictions are unworkable
Publicans in regional Victoria are outraged at the restrictions their businesses will be subject to from midnight, with some having decided it's not worth opening their doors. Regional Victoria, excluding Greater Shepparton, will come out of lockdown at 11.59pm today, but businesses will be forced to comply with strict capacity limits.Food and drink venues will be allowed to open for seated service but most will only be able to service a maximum of 10 customers indoor and 20 customers outdoor.
She said it was great news for local businesses and families that Greater Shepparton's lockdown was ending, but she was thinking about Ballarat,.
"I absolutely feel for them," she said.
"It was devastating when we went into a hard lockdown here and absolutely devastating for families."
"I really feel for them and also Melbourne still going through it … it is really terrible for them."
Ms Wilson said she hoped other regions could look at Shepparton and see that it was possible to get a Delta outbreak under control.
"If each little area can get their COVID under control, then that's a massive step forward," she said.
"I think if we can do it – if we can beat it up here, that will hopefully filter down. And hopefully we can open up the state as a whole eventually."
Video: 'The greater good': Berejiklian urges vaccine hesitant residents to think of their loved ones (Sky News Australia)
Everything to know about the end of lockdown in regional Victoria .
Restaurants, clothing stores and schools will all reopen amid a swathe of eased Covid-19 restrictions as the lockdown in regional Victoria finally comes to an end. From 11.59pm on Thursday residents in regional areas of the state will be able to leave their homes for any reason - after 221 new cases were recorded on Wednesday.There will be no limits on how far residents can travel with the new rules applying to the entire state except for Greater Shepparton and metropolitan Melbourne which continue to see high numbers of cases.