By Jackson Russell
MEMBER for Euroa Steph Ryan has called on the State Government to release postcode-based data in active cases of COVID-19 in Mitchell Shire, as the entire shire was locked down for a second time.
With Mitchell Shire stretching from the outskirts of Melbourne, right up to the regional towns of Tooborac, Seymour and Puckapunyal, Ms Ryan, whose electorate covers Kilmore, Broadford and Seymour, said residents needed to understand the risk in their own community.
“Providing that information at a postcode level will help do that while also protecting the privacy of those people who might be ill,” she said.
“At this point the government is not providing that information but if we can gain an understanding of the communities that are impacted, I would be urging the government to consider a more localised approach as has occurred in 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.
“It would be disappointing if Mitchell loses its regional council status because it obviously doesn’t have the rate base that a large metro council has and would see the rural communities particularly disadvantaged into the future.”
Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green, whose electorate covers Wallan and Beveridge as well as large parts of the City of Whittlesea, said Mitchell Shire was included in the lockdown due to a higher rate of infection than the neighbouring City of Whittlesea.
“Whittlesea’s population is slightly less than five times Mitchell’s and on June 26, Whittlesea had 14 cases and Mitchell had none,” she said.
Ms Green said four days later on June 30, Mitchell Shire had four active cases to Whittlesea’s 17.
“If Whittlesea grew that quickly it would’ve been be a shock,” she said.
Yesterday’s statistics showed the City of Whittlesea had 64 active cases to Mitchell Shire’s 12.
Ms Green said she thought the chief health officer had no choice but to act and including entire council areas was the right way to ensure the whole community remained vigilant.
“When you add in that both [local government areas] abut Hume which has the highest rate of cases in the state, I don’t think the chief health officer had any other choice than to do what he did,” she said.
“I think to publish individual postcodes, you could end up with panic in the infected postcodes and complacency in the others.
“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.”
Minister for Regional Development and Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said the decision was made to protect the welfare of everyone in the community and active cases were not restricted to the towns closer to Melbourne.
“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 Mitchell Shire as well as some closer to Melbourne and there is a risk these could spread elsewhere in our community very easily.
“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.”