THE State Government’s decision to include Mitchell Shire in metropolitan Melbourne’s return to stage three restrictions has prompted questions from community to be told specific COVID-19 case data.
When Premier Daniel Andrews announced last week that Mitchell Shire would join metropolitan Melbourne in reverting back to stage three restrictions, there were seven active cases in the shire.
Since then, the number has grown to as high as 12 according to yesterday’s statistics, but significantly less than the neighbouring municipalities of Hume, which leads the state with 222 active cases and 64 in Whittlesea.
The stage three restrictions mean people should leave their homes for only four reasons – to work or for education, if they cannot do it from home; shopping for food and essential goods or services; to provide care, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment; and to exercise or for outdoor recreation.
The restrictions also limit residents travelling to outside the lockdown area of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
Mitchell Police Service Area Inspector Peter Koger said there would be extra police units in both the south and north of the Mitchell area, and one patrolling the area overnight to check that people were adhering to the restrictions.
Checkpoints have been set up on the Hume Highway at Beveridge, to monitor traffic flow, with police asking drivers for reasons of their intended travel plans.
Police are using automatic number plate recognition to scan registration details and identify the residential addresses of licence holders.
Mr Andrews also announced new recommendations late last week, suggesting people living in Mitchell Shire and Melbourne to wear face masks in situations where they were leaving their home and physical distancing was not possible, to help slow the spread of coronavirus in the community.
The restrictions are also causing staffing issues at The Kilmore and District Hospital, following an outbreak at the Northern Hospital.
Chief executive Sue Race said all services remained open at the hospital but they would review the need for elective surgeries based on advice from the Department of Health.
“We do have some issues with Northern Health having reduced service in the emergency department and have put staff in two weeks’ isolation so we have some staff who aren’t able to work and we’re just working on how we get through that,” she said.
The Department of Health and Human Services releases daily statistics regarding the number of COVID-19 cases in each local government area.
But the community, supported by members of Parliament and Mitchell Shire Council, have questioned the exact locations of the active cases.
An online petition, so far with more than 1000 signatures, is also calling for more detailed case information by postcode so that people can make informed decisions.
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan led the call for the State Government to release postcode-based data in active cases of COVID-19 in the shire.
Residents in the north of the shire have been particularly active in questioning the decision for Mitchell Shire to be included with metropolitan Melbourne.
The Nationals Victorian leader Peter Walsh said the lockdown was a ‘bitter disappointment’ for a large part of Mitchell Shire that would be considered country and not metropolitan.
“I imagine they feel very angry that this second round of lockdown will cost jobs and businesses in our communities because people just don’t have the financial resources to go through it again,” he said.
Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said if the cases for individual postcodes were published, it could cause panic in the ‘infected’ postcodes and complacency in the other areas.
“It’s difficult for every council area. It can spread anywhere and the government’s focus has to be on the areas where there is a high rate of transmission and the rate of active cases in Mitchell shows that it is prevalent and we don’t want it to spread further,” she said.
In explaining why Mitchell Shire was included with metropolitan Melbourne, Ms Green said Mitchell’s active case numbers were high relative to population, and significantly increasing comparatively.
Mitchell Shire Mayor David Lowe told the Review council was not consulted about being included in the new lockdown measures.
“We’re now in a position where, ironically, a postcode approach may have been more beneficial for the shire,” he said.
“You’ve got a situation where the north of shire is much less populated and there’s a situation where if you look at the Tooboracs of the world, they’re only a few kilometres from the boundary of another shire that isn’t locked down and are feeling disadvantaged.”