Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews must protect Regional communities from the threat of COVID-19 by acting immediately to close the many holes in his mythical ring around Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
Workers from Melbourne and a lack of screening of passengers on public transport pose a risk to regional communities that we just can’t afford whilst the virus rages uncontrolled in the metro area.
On Friday it was revealed that 16 local Shepparton Police Officers had been forced into self-isolation following a visit to the Shepparton Police Station by a Melbourne detective who has since tested positive to COVID-19.
Currently Shepparton only has one confirmed case of COVID-19 but this visit by the Crime Command detective has put the Shepparton community at risk of a second wave on a scale of numbers similar to some of the metropolitan hot spot suburbs.
The detective came into close contact with sixteen local Shepparton Police officers at the Shepparton station but was not confirmed as positive to COVID-19 until the Thursday of the week following his visit.
The 16 Shepparton Police are now in self-isolation but in the meantime will have had close contact with numerous members of their own households and other members of the community. Whilst I hope these officers all prove to be negative, I am concerned for their health and the health of their family, friends and the broader community.
Early last week it was also revealed that contractors from suburban Melbourne were in regional communities entering people’s homes to change lightbulbs and shower heads under the State Governments Energy Saver program. Following an alert being raised by the Shadow Minister for Energy Ryan Smith the Government suspended the program and recalled the contractors to Melbourne.
In the meantime, construction workers continue to flood regional areas to work on projects including the GV Health redevelopment and the Shepparton Art Museum. These workers spend their weekends and days off in Melbourne where they may have contact with people in hot spot suburbs then return to move freely around regional communities.
Regional V-Line Services also pose a risk to the regions with many passengers reporting they were not screened in anyway or asked for proof of residency or reason for travelling to regional areas. A Bendigo resident also reported that they had come into contact with someone who had travelled by car from Keilor in the major hot spot municipality of Hume, to Bendigo without once being stopped at a roadblock.
In addition, an article in the Shepparton News about an exemption that allowed those from the lockdown areas to travel to regional areas if they were prospective buyers or renters of real estate, sparked a flood of concerns from both Shepparton and Bendigo residents to be raised with my office.
It is understandable that some exceptions need to be made to allow for the delivery of essential supplies and for those who provide critical services, however the government must do more to ensure those moving between the lockdown and non-lockdown areas are doing so for essential reasons, that they are screened for risk and that their movements are limited to avoid unnecessary contact with the local community.
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