Premier 'concerned' by case increase in regional Victoria

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Premier Daniel Andrews has raised concern about an increase in cases in regional Victoria as the state recorded 410 new cases and 21 deaths on Wednesday.

"We have seen some increases of concern in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, they are stable and low but any additional cases are of concern," he said.

"It's really important that every regional Victorian stays the course on this, even at low numbers we've got to have that vigilance and drive numbers down further.

"People need to consider whether travel to or from regional Victoria is actually necessary - less movement means less cases.

"Stage three is being followed by large majority of regional Victorians. I know people are frustrated and wanting to go back to normal but that's some time away, we all need to stay the course and not let this virus win."

There are 512 cases in regional Victoria.

As of Tuesday Geelong recorded 180 active cases, an increase of 60 on the same time last week. On Sunday there were 164 cases and 168 on Monday.

Bendigo cases have grown from 25 last Tuesday to 54. There were 56 cases recorded on Sunday and 57 on Monday.

Ballarat cases are now at 20, up from 12 same time last week. The cases were at 18 on Sunday and 17 on Monday.

Premier Andrews said 1270 shifts have been covered by nurses in aged care homes as 406 aged care residents have been transferred to hospital.

The majority of these are positive cases.

Defence Force conducts tests in Colac

The Australian Defence Force has had boots on the ground conducting tests and assisting with language barriers in Colac.

Flying Officer Cheryl Brophy said in an ADF video yesterday that they were assisting the Victorian Government with testing.

"There's been an outbreak here of COVID so a bunch of us have been sent here to do some testing over the next few days," she said.

"We've been split into two teams there's the clinicians and the administration side of things.

"So us clinicians are doing the actual swabbing and the administration team are helping the Department of Health and Human Services."

Private Guillermo Flores has been helping non-English speaking community members.

"My role here is as a translator helping to get details on the locals here and some of the locals cannot speak English well so that's my main role here," he said.

"I feel honoured to be able to help with the COVID response, it's been a tough few months but being able to represent Australia and help has been great," Officer Brophy added.

Colac Area Health chief executive Fiona Brew said testing had slowed over the week.

"Over the past seven days, there have been 372 people tested for COVID-19 in Colac. This shows a large drop in demand for testing, compared to a fortnight ago when there were close to 800 in a single day," she said on Wednesday.

"After today, we will close our drive-through clinic, with the Neighbourhood House clinic now able to manage the current demand for COVID-19 testing.

"We would like to thank the community for their patience and understanding, as well as their vigilance in being tested and following the recommended precautions to help contain the spread of the virus."

The town at the centre of a meatworks coronavirus outbreak hasn't seen a new case in three days, news that has been welcome by Colac Otway Shire Mayor Jason Schram.

"It's great news to see we've seemingly stopped the rise in cases down here, it's a real testament to the hard work the community did," he said.

"From day one Colac has been on the front foot, we didn't wait for the government to come in two weeks too late to lock the town sown and that's a testament to the results of curbing the number of cases.

"It's definitely been tough on businesses, tourism and hospitality."

Colac Otway Shire mayor Jason Schram.

Colac Otway Shire mayor Jason Schram.

Australian Lamb Company reopened its Colac facility on August 7 at a reduced capacity.

"We have recommenced our Colac operations with a reduced workforce today, in line with the new guidelines issued by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services," a spokesman said.

"These guidelines include introducing health and safety measures to protect our workforce from the virus, which are in addition to the stringent measures we implemented at the beginning of the year to deal with COVID-19.

"We have been working closely with Colac Area Health, DHHS, Department of Agriculture and Regional Development Victoria to re-start the facility, and we thank them for their commitment and guidance in this regard.

"We are also working with our employees and contractors impacted by the enforced workforce changes.

"We would like to thank the local community for their ongoing care and support as we move forward together."

Beeac Primary School will re-open on Friday after a COVID-19 scare last week.

The school site has been closed after a school community member tested positive for coronavirus.

There are currently five active COVID-19 cases in Beeac's 3251 postcode area.

Cr Schram said there were very few children physically attending school in Colac in line with stage three restrictions.

He said while most people have been doing the right thing, there were instances of abattoir workers and close contacts not doing the right thing.

"In the early days there was a small percentage that wasn't staying at home and there were a few language barriers which the ADF have helped with through the incident control centre here," he said.

"For workers who couldn't isolate at home were given hotel options and the shire distributed over 300 food and assistance hampers to people that needed essential items.

"There are still people isolating for that 14 day period and most of them are doing the right thing."

Colac businesses adapting to new restrictions

Businesses across Colac have adapted to stage three restrictions, finding inventive ways to keep doors open and staff in jobs.

Piano Bar Colac have been hosting live virtual shows to lift community spirits and keep performers doing what they love.

Last Saturday they hosted a virtual fundraising concert and raised an impressive $7500 for Colac Area Health.

The Austral Hotel, devastated to have to close doors again after reopening for a short time, have been able to continue to service pub classics through their drive-thru bottle shop.

Manager Dave Lineen said it was the best of a bad situation.

"We're doing as well as we can, we didn't get much of a choice but our takeaways have been seeing similar support to last time," he said.

"We have a menu available online where people can ring up and order over the phone and pick up their pub favourites like parmas and schnitzels.

"The community response has been pretty rapid since the first cases in town, we went into voluntary lockdown and you really don't see anyone not wearing a mask around town which is great."

Out of adversity Colac taxiEATS were formed during the COVID crisis to help the community of Colac support their favourite eateries without having to leave home.

With a wide selection of eateries and only a $5 delivery charge, Colac taxiEATS are delivering from local eateries from 11am to 9pm seven days a week.

This story Premier 'concerned' by case increase in regional Victoria first appeared on The Standard.