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13 May 2020
By DEAN LAWSON
Municipal leaders across the region have urged their communities to continue being patient as the state starts easing its way out of COVID-19 restrictions.
Mayors joined a chorus in urging people of the Wimmera, southern Mallee and eastern Grampians fringe to remain vigilant in following statewide health advice.
They made the call as Premier Daniel Andrews announced the first move in a gradual easing of State of Emergency rules and following up with student return-to-school timelines.
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Under a revised set of guidelines, Victorians must continue to stay at home unless shopping for essentials, exercising, providing care, or work or education if they cannot do it from home.
From today people can also have up to five guests visit their homes, but the State Government wants people to avoid making social visits to friends and family that require overnight stays – unless visitors are providing care, including babysitting, or supporting someone vulnerable.
Outdoor activities such as training for community sport, hiking, fishing, boating and playing golf are now allowed but in groups of no more than 10.
Parks Victoria was waiting to release details involving national and state parks reopening for day trips.
Recreation activities in indoor sporting centres are still banned.
Students will start returning to Victorian schools for classroom learning from May 26, starting with prep, grade one and two and Victorian Certificate of Education and Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning and specialist-school students. All other year levels will return on June 9.
Horsham mayor Mark Radford said people needed to stay vigilant.
“Life is going to be different for a little while longer. Patience is the key,” he said.
“Our community performed exceptionally well and business innovation has been amazing.
“To say it’s been inspirational isn’t an exaggeration. But for some it has also been a devastating time.
“Having a little more freedom to visit people can only be a good thing – but in the back of our minds there are many who remain a little bit nervous. This is uncharted territory.”
Northern Grampians mayor Murray Emerson said he understood the government’s cautious approach.
“It’s better to be alive and well than going out and getting sick. It’s business as usual for many of the restrictions and we have to put up with them for a little longer and see how it goes,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful step that we can now visit the people who mean the most to us, but we must recognise we are not out of the woods yet.”
Ararat mayor Jo Armstrong added that for the measures to continue to produce results people needed to work together.
“We remain stronger together and we must encourage one another to do the right thing for the greater good,” she said.
Yarriambiack mayor Graeme Massey and his Hindmarsh counterpart Rob Gersch said easing back towards degrees of normality was important.
“I believe small steps are better than large strides at the moment. Hopefully the next three weeks will sort things out. Be patient and keep following instructions,” Cr Massey said.
Cr Gersch: “The main thing is we don’t pull all the restrictions too early. We’ve done the hard yards and must stick it out. If there was a recall for stricter rules it would be disastrous.”
West Wimmera mayor Bruce Meyer described the change as ‘a start’.
“There will be a lot of people happy to get out and have a fish or play golf. It’s been pretty tough in the regions having city rules applying to everyone,” he said.
“We’ll be looking for wider restrictions easing, particularly where there is no presence of the virus.”
What people can and cannot do as part of the gradual easing of restrictions is outlined in detail on website www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/gradual-easing-restrictions-covid-19.
The number of official COVID-19 cases in the Wimmera-Mallee remained unchanged at seven yesterday but Ararat had an increase of four to an overall figure of five. This was based on four positive results from prisoners at Hopkins Correctional Centre that subsequently returned negative results.
Based on testing results, there are no official active COVID-19 cases in Ararat, Horsham, Northern Grampians, Yarriambiack, West Wimmera, Hindmarsh, Buloke or Pyrenees shires.
The entire May 13, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!