By Evelyn Leckie
A State of Emergency was declared in Victoria yesterday to combat COVID-19 while events and sporting competitions across the region are being cancelled at a fast rate.
Under a State of Emergency, authorised officers can act to eliminate or reduce a serious risk to public health by detaining people, restricting movement, preventing entry to premises, or providing any other direction considered reasonable to protect public health.
Mitchell Shire Council cancelled several upcoming events including the multicultural festival, youth week activities and a school holiday program.
As a precaution, youth rooms in Broadford and Wallan have also closed and library home visits have been cancelled.
Yesterday’s advice from the council was that Seymour Aquatic and Sports Centre and Kilmore Leisure Centre will remain open.
“Indoor pools and gyms will remain open, however, extra staff will be deployed to ensure gym-goers wipe down equipment before and after use,” a council spokesperson said.
As stock in supermarkets reach alarming low rates, Woolworths announced yesterday it would dedicate a temporary dedicated shopping hour, from 7am to 8am, to help protect eldery and people with a disability from panic buying.
Wallan’s Wellington Square management said the hour exlusively for the elderly and those with a disability would start today, Tuesday, and include people with Commonwealth seniors health, disability, pensioner concession or seniors cards.
“We will be only be opening the centre doors near Subway during this time. All entrance doors will be open from 8.30am. Please note Woolworths will be closing at 8pm until further notice,” management said.
Love in Action Wallan Community Group announced they will not be doing Easter hampers this year, while concentrating on collecting emergency donations for families to get essential items.
“To avoid contagion, no more donations to be left at Nexus, The Hub, LJ Hooker or Complete Physiotherapy until further notice,” a spokesperson said.
The group said there were three adresses that groceries can still be dropped off at and to contact the group’s administration for more details.
“Please continue to support us during this crisis. We need more than ever to be a community helping each other,” the spokesperson said.
“If you can buy an extra packet tissues, nappies, toilet rolls, tinned food, rice or pasta or any grocery item we will see it gets to those who need it most.”
City of Whittlesea announced on Friday they were cancelling the annual community festival.
“Our decision to cancel the event is based on today’s developments that include a strong recommendation from the chief medical officer to cancel or postpone mass gatherings along with the first confirmed case where the disease was transmitted within the community,” a council spokesperson said.
Macedon Ranges Shire Council announced on Monday that council events will be cancelled or postponed and public facilities will be closed for at least one month starting today (Tuesday, March 17).
Closed facilities include leisure centres in all Macedon Ranges towns, libraries in Kyneton, Gisborne, Woodend and Romsey and council service desks at Romsey Community Hub and Woodend Community Centre.
Macedon Ranges kindergartens and maternal and child health centres will remain open until council is otherwise notified by the relevant government departments.
Residents who have memberships, programs or tickets at Council facilities or centres will be contacted directly regarding future arrangements.
Macedon Ranges Shire Council chief executive Margot Stork said council was following state and federal government advice by minimising large public gatherings, dispensing with non-essential meetings and events, and encouraging social distancing.
“We are committed to acting in the best interest of our community and keeping everyone safe,” Ms Stork said.
“This is a constantly evolving situation and we will review our response daily and adjust as required.
“We will keep the community fully informed as the situation continues to unfold.”
Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said the State of Emergency would be in force for the next four weeks to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 and take pressure off health services.
The first direction from the chief health officer under the new powers will include banning non-essential mass gatherings of over 500 people such as cultural events, sporting events or conferences, as outlined in the Federal Government’s measures.
“We are taking these steps, after agreement from the National Cabinet that includes the Prime Minister and all premiers and chief ministers, to contain the spread of coronavirus as much as we can,” Mr Andrews said.
“Make no mistake, the next few weeks and months will be tough for everyone, but we’re doing what is necessary to protect Victorians.”