Regional COVID testing blitz

Regional COVID testing blitz

News
MYSTERY SPREAD: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a testing blitz for three regional cities but will be flexible regarding abattoirs.

MYSTERY SPREAD: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a testing blitz for three regional cities but will be flexible regarding abattoirs.

Aa

Premier Daniel Andrews this morning announced a COVID testing blitz in Geelong and surrounds, Ballarat and Bendigo as "mystery cases" spike in the three regional cities but said the "issue of the week" was border closures.

Aa

Premier Daniel Andrews this morning announced a COVID testing blitz in Geelong and surrounds, Ballarat and Bendigo as "mystery cases" spike in the three regional cities but said the "issue of the week" was border closures.

Mr Andrews was also prepared to use commonsense in the lead up to the spring lamb and bobby calf season.

There had been 175 cases in Geelong in the last fortnight, 70 to 75 in Bendigo, and a smaller number, but "a pretty steep increase" in Ballarat, Mr Andrews said.

The Premier urged anyone with symptoms, however mild, to be tested and to stay away from work.

To avoid overstretching resources, the testing blitz would not apply to people without symptoms.

He said the large number of mystery cases in those centres made they were of greater concern than in areas like the Latrobe Valley, where the sources of infections are better known.

Shepparton was also "definitely on the radar", Mr Andrews said.

He said communities that had no, or a low number of cases, should not be complacent because there could be cases that had not been diagnosed.

"To be honest, with the number of mystery cases that we've got across the board, it's a bit difficult to be definitive about a particular region or a particular community having no cases," Mr Andrews said.

"I think that you've got to wear on the side of caution and assume that there's more than you think."

The Premier would not rule out implementing stage 4 restrictions in regional Victoria if the data supported them or tightening travel to and from Melbourne.

"Travelling from regional Victoria to Melbourne and back again needs to be at a minimum level," Mr Andrews said.

"We don't want to have to go to even further enforcement if we need to.

"I have seen some reports that people are a bit concerned about how hard that border is and I'm more than happy to take that up with Shane Patton, the Chief Commissioner."

Conversations about border arrangement with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had progressed, he said.

"I'll be able to report progress fairly soon on, they're all very positive discussions," he said.

"I want to try and achieve an outcome much like what the VFF are calling for."

Mr Andrews said the government had already made new arrangements that reflected agriculture's seasonality.

"We've made some changes around calves, noting the time of the year," he said.

It wasn't possible to ease restrictions in regional abattoirs further at this stage, Mr Andrews said.

"In abattoirs, and meat processing, it does, because we couldn't have a situation where all the work that would have been done in Melbourne gets sent to regional Victoria, given the high risk nature of the industry," he said.

"We're always happy to look on a case by case basis, provided it doesn't undermine the overall mission, which is to get the number of people working in these higher risk settings down to a lower level, as well as compliance around the COVID-safe plan.

"Once we get deep into September, it's a very different set of circumstances and hopefully by then we've seen cases come down, so we've got some room to move there."

The Premier refused to be drawn on what the criteria might be for the introduction of stage 4 restrictions in regional Victoria.

"It's not a matter for today," he said.

"You always make decisions that are as proportionate as possible, we're not there to inflict damage but to protect people."

Have you signed up to Stock & Land's daily newsletter? Register below to make sure you are up to date with everything that's important to Victorian and Tasmanian agriculture.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by