WITH Mitchell Shire included in reintroduced lockdown measures for metropolitan Melbourne, MPs have called on the State Government to release postcode-based data for cases of COVID-19 in regional Victoria.
Mitchell Shire had seven active cases as of yesterday while the neighbouring City of Whittlesea had 32 and Hume had 116.
While the southern portion of Mitchell Shire is less than an hour from the Melbourne CBD, towns in the north are closer to regional centres such as Bendigo and Shepparton than they are to Melbourne.
Whittlesea township has also been included in the metropolitan lockdown along with the rest of the City of Whittlesea.
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan, whose electorate takes in Kilmore, Broadford and Seymour, said while it was clear Mitchell Shire had a much higher rate of cases than the rest of regional Victoria, they were likely to be in the shire’s south which borders hotspot areas like Craigieburn.
“There is no indication from the government as to whether the cases recorded in Mitchell are in the southern or northern end of the shire,” she said.
“I have tried on a number of occasions now to obtain a more detailed breakdown of where these cases are located, however the Andrews Government seems reluctant to provide it.
“Providing case numbers by postcode would ensure residents are informed about the level of risk in their own community, while protecting the privacy of those who are ill.”
Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green, whose electorate includes Wallan, Beveridge and parts of the City of Whittlesea, said in a Facebook post last night that she was not briefed on why Mitchell Shire was included in the lockdown.
“However, it is my understanding that it is because there’s now a similar proportion of active cases relative to population as in neighbouring Whittlesea City,” she said.
Minister for Regional Development and Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes, who is based in Broadford and has an office in Wallan, said it was a decision the government had to make to protect the welfare of everyone in the community and stop the spread of the virus.
“Regional Victoria is not immune to this virus. It can spread anywhere. Our focus needs to be on the areas where there is a high risk of transmission,” she said.
“We have a number of cases in central parts of the shire as well as some closer to Melbourne and there is a risk these could spread elsewhere in our community very easily.
“My message to the Mitchell Shire communities is very clear: we will be increasing our local testing capacity and we need everyone with even the mildest of symptoms to get tested and follow these restrictions – because the more data we have and the way our community responds will dictate every step we take from here on out.”
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien blasted the State Government, calling the reintroduced lockdown a ‘catastrophic’ consequence.
“This is a really tough day for Victorians. Six weeks of further lockdowns will be a devastating blow for families, workers and small businesses. Many jobs simply won’t survive this,” he said.
“The spread of the virus isn’t down to bad luck – it is bad decisions by government.
“To the Andrews Labor Government: We disagree on many things but this is too important for us not to work together. My team stands ready to work constructively with the government to address this latest crisis.”
Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty said he was relieved the State Government listened to regional Victoria.
“At last the city-focused Labor Party is recognising that regional Victoria needs to be treated as a distinct entity,” he said.
“All through this coronavirus crisis, regional Victorians have been paying the price for Melbourne’s problems. I’m delighted that this attitude has changed.”