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    Wimmera Health Care Group acting medical services director Dr John Gallichio.

Dr Gallichio: Keep testing to help COVID-19 recovery

A Wimmera health leader has spoken of a need for symptomatic people across the region to continue COVID-19 testing in efforts to ease restrictions.

Wimmera Health Care Group Medical Services acting director Dr John Gallichio, in response to the State Government’s roadmap out of the pandemic, said it remained ‘very’ important for people who felt unwell or had the mildest of cold symptoms to get a COVID-19 test.

“Everyone in our region has done exceptionally well so far in keeping our numbers very low,” he said.

“We all need to continue to physically distance, use hand sanitiser, wear our masks properly when in public and not travel unless essential – these rules all remain the same.



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“We want to demonstrate to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Premier that COVID-19 is so low here that we are safe. 

“We can do that by showing we are diligent in being tested and with those tests being negative.

“If we want restrictions to be lifted and most importantly not extended any further, then this is the path for us to follow.”

The health group’s Horsham Covid Assessment Clinic in Read Street is testing an average of 20 people a day for the virus. 

From 11.59pm Sunday, Wimmera-Mallee and Western District people will join other regional Victorians in the roadmap’s ‘second step’, which represents a marginally different version of stage-three restrictions.

Critically, regional Victoria will be able to move to step three of the roadmap and a lifting of some restrictions when data across the regions shows a 14-day average of fewer than five new cases a day and a 14-day recording of zero cases with an unknown source.

Moving to the next phase applies to all regional areas meeting the conditions, although Premier Daniel Andrews suggested a ‘Geelong corridor’ might have different rules if it struggled to match other regions.

Mr Andrews said in his statement on Sunday: “If we go too far too soon, the modelling tells us we’d be on track for a third wave by mid-November. 

“That’d mean we’re back to where we are now, maybe even worse. Days, weeks, months of sacrifice – gone. Confidence for business – destroyed. More families suffering. More lives lost. It’s why it’s got to be done in safe, steady and sustainable steps.”

Step-two rules in regional Victoria involve changes for students and on-site learning.

Students in all year levels will continue remote and flexible learning for the rest of term three and for the first week of term four. Schools can start a ‘staged’ return to on-site learning for all levels from October 12.

Victorian Certificate of Education and Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning students across the state can return for the start of term four on October 5 for school-based assessments and exams, including a General Achievement Test on October 7.

Call for alternative plan

The State Government’s roadmaps have attracted everything from fierce or desperate criticism, particularly from business groups and businesses heavily impacted by extended restrictions, to quiet acceptance. In the regions it has prompted a call for alternative planning.

Rural Councils Victoria, representing 37 of the state’s 79 municipal councils and geographically covering almost 80 percent of Victoria, has called on the State Government to immediately ease stage-three lockdowns in rural communities where no COVID-19 was circulating. 

RCV chair Mary-Ann Brown said there was a need for more ‘nuance’ in managing the roadmap in rural shires. 

“We are asking the government to have a response that is proportionate to the risk and is guided by the data,” she said.  

“The data shows us that large swathes of rural and regional Victoria have no recorded cases of COVID-19. 

“It is imperative the government starts to see regional Victoria for what it is – a very large and diverse series of rural and regional areas. In rural and regional Victoria one size cannot fit all because of the sheer size of the state. It is more than 1000 kilometres from Mildura to Mallacoota.”

Federal Member for Mallee Anne Webster slammed the State Government, describing a decision to class the entirety of regional Victoria into one group as ‘beyond belief’.

“We are being treated as nothing more than an afterthought,” she said.

“To put all of regional Victoria’s diverse communities into one basket is ridiculous. It is no better than making our roadmap the same as Melbourne. 

“Parts of Mallee have had zero cases for four months, while other parts have never had a case. These areas have already met ‘trigger points’ for step three of the Andrews government’s new roadmap, but  will be held back by other areas such as Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. The fact we are all considered a single unit is not fair or reasonable.”

 

Regional snapshot

 

 

Regional Victorian rules to come in on Monday include –

• People must continue to only leave home for school or work, if these cannot be done from home, care or caregiving, to buy essentials and exercise.

• Up to five people from a maximum of two households will be able to meet outdoors for social interaction. 

• ‘Single-person bubbles’ will apply with one nominated visitor to the house of people living alone or a single parent with all children under 18. Professional respite care for people with complex needs is allowed.

• Outdoor exercise and recreation is allowed with no time limits. Outdoor playgrounds and outdoor pools can open.

• Restaurants and cafés can stay open for takeaway and delivery.

• Retail shopping will be open, with density and other restrictions and hairdressing businesses can stay open.

• All entertainment venues remain closed.

• Accommodation and camping are still closed except for permitted purposes.

Detailed information is available on website www.vic.gov.au/second-step-coronavirus-road-to-recovery.

The entire September 9, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!