MITCHELL Shire residents and community groups have pulled together rapidly after Victoria was plunged into a snap seven-day COVID-19 lockdown at the end of last week.

The lockdown has reinstated measures previously employed by the State Government stipulating that people cannot leave their homes unless to conduct essential work, exercise, give care or buy food. A fifth reason for leaving home – receiving a COVID-19 vaccine – was also added.

The City of Whittlesea become the epicentre of the latest COVID-19 outbreak, with a growing list of exposure sites

Epping has been the hardest hit suburb by far, with 13 active cases and 42 exposure sites as of yesterday.

Other exposure sites are dotted across Thomastown, Lalor, Mill Park, Craigieburn, Mickleham, Doreen, Wollert, Mernda and Kalkallo.

Local government groups moved swiftly to comply with the new measures, with Mitchell Shire Councils suspending non-essential services.

The council’s community service centres are closed for face-to-face service, but residents can still call 5734 6200 or visit www.mitchellshire.vic.gov.au/reportit to make online payments.

A Centrelink terminal at Kilmore will be open by appointment and libraries will operate a contactless click-and-collect service.

Kindergartens continue to be open, despite primary and secondary schools being forced to remote learning, except to children of essential workers.

Pools, gyms, stadiums and leisure centres are closed, along with all community sport, dance and fitness classes.

Road maintenance and constructions works will continue, as will kerbside waste collection.

A full list of council services and how they are affected can be found here.

While the lockdown restrictions have negatively affected many businesses, some like The Brewer’s Table Cafe in Seymour have banded together to support the community.

The cafe yesterday announced in a post on its Facebook page that it would provide free soups and meals for anybody who needed them.

“We have excess and there are people who need it,” the post said.

“If anyone is not working/not receiving a paycheck and runs out of food for you or your kids or your pets, or times are just tough … please don’t let you or your kids especially, go to bed with an empty stomach. Our elderly people need our help and support especially during this time.”

Acting Premier James Merlino said the State Government would provide a $250.7 million support package for businesses and workers affected by the lockdown.

“The circuit-breaker action will keep Victorians safe and protect businesses and jobs – but we know it’s not easy shutting your doors and putting your plans on hold,” he said.

“This support will help businesses pay the bills and maintain their workforce as best they can, as we work together to get through this challenge.”

The Circuit Breaker Business Support Package features three initiatives for small to medium-sized businesses and sole traders, including grants of $2500 for businesses directly affected by the circuit-breaker industry restrictions, such as restaurants and cafes, event suppliers, accommodation providers and non-essential retailers. 

There is also a licensed hospitality venue fund and more details on event industry grants will be available soon.

People can check their eligibility for support by visiting business.vic.gov.au.

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