COVID-19 hits home

The Department of Health and Human Services yesterday confirmed two cases of COVID-19 in the Mitchell Shire, as the residents and business owners grapple with a government-imposed different way of life.

As the total number of COVID-19, coronavirus, cases in Victoria reached 355, the State Government introduced strict new measures in a bid to keep people staying at home.
The pandemic has now affected more than 1600 people across Australia.

Premier Daniel Andrews ordered schools to start school holidays on Tuesday, and teachers are preparing to teach via online learning if schools need to remain closed in term two.

Hotels, clubs, bars and nightclubs were forced to close at noon yesterday, but are allowed to sell takeaway meals, operate bottleshops and provide accommodation.

Other businesses ordered to close include gyms, indoor sporting centres, casinos, cinemas, entertainment venues and places of worship – weddings and funerals can continue if they adhere to the new temporary guidelines.

Restaurants and cafes can continue to offer takeaways and home-deliver.

At this stage, the shutdown does not include building, construction and development sites.
Businesses across Mitchell Shire are already starting to feel the pinch, with many owners in shock and left reeling from the government’s announcement to close non-essential businesses.

But a range of state and federal government packages to assist small businesses are providing hope to those most affected.

All small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic will be able to access a six-month deferral of all loan repayments, following an announcement by the Australian Banking Association on Friday.

The relief package will apply to more than $100 billion in small business loans and the association expects it could put $8 billion back into the pockets of affected companies.
The banks will also consider home loan relief measures if households enter mortgage stress.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a second stimulus package, providing $66 billion to businesses, including up to $100,000 cash payments to small businesses.
The State Government package includes payroll tax refunds, a $500 million Business Support Fund and $500 million Working for Victoria Fund.

Meanwhile, Mitchell Shire residents begin to adapt to self-isolating at home, with many working from home where possible, and prioritising grocery shopping as the supermarkets struggle to keep up with demand.

Hospitals have enforced stricter visiting hours and other community events and activities have either been cancelled or postponed indefinitely.

Mitchell Shire Council has closed Seymour Visitor Information Centre, Kilmore Leisure Centre and Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre, and its libraries.

All council-operated kindergartens will close from today, but kerbside collections, maternal and child health, and immunisations will remain open.

Mitchell Shire Council acting chief executive Mary Agostino said council was also investigating how to best support small businesses in the shire, and look after vulnerable people.

“We’re here for the long haul. We’re going to work together,” Ms Agostino said.

“There’s going to be some trying times for people, let’s just care and look after each other. Council and the other agencies are here to support.”