Member for Euroa Steph Ryan has called for answers on why Mitchell Shire remains in lockdown despite overall case numbers decreasing and no exposure sites offcially listed.
As of yesterday the total case number for Mitchell Shire was 129 active – less than the 138 cases in Shepparton, which had its lockdown lifted on Friday night.
According to the Department of Health website, it lists towns within Mitchell Shire to have the following active cases; Wallan 59; Broadford 27; Beveridge 17; Kilmore 14; Seymour 9; and Wandong – Heathcote Junction 3; Pyalong 1; Puckapunyal 1.
Ms Ryan raised the matter in Parliament last week, asking Health Minister Martin Foley a series of questions about restrictions in Mitchell Shire’s lockdown.
“Case numbers, particularly in the south of the shire, continue to grow,” she said.
“Yet the government claims there are no tier one exposure sites and the Health Minister this week claimed contact tracing was keeping pace.
“It’s a ridiculous argument. The government cannot seriously expect us to believe that not a single one of the active cases in the shire has visited a petrol station, a supermarket or purchased takeaway food before testing positive.
“If that was the case, and it would be extraordinary, then why are Mitchell residents in lockdown when areas like Geelong and Warrnambool, which have dozens of exposure sites, including tier one sites, are not?
“It’s clear the region is in lockdown because the government’s contact tracing has been overwhelmed.
“The community has been ignored and starved of information while case numbers continue to grow.”
Little Steps Early Education and Care, a Kilmore childcare centre, posted on its Facebook page on Sunday that a staff member had tested positive to COVID, and had worked on Wednesday and Thursday. But as of 3pm yesterday, it had not been listed on the Department of Health website.
Ms Ryan said with the supposedly seven-day lockdown, now into its fourth week, the government should tell the Mitchell Shire residents what the trigger was for bringing it to an end.
“What are the acceptable case numbers in Mitchell Shire for to be removed from lockdown?,” she said.
“Will Mitchell Shire follow the metropolitan road map or will it be returned to regional Victorian restrictions when cases are lower?
“Business owners are facing financial ruin and kids are still unable to return to the classroom.
“Residents have also been told by the Health Department they can no longer attend vaccination appointments in Shepparton, contrary to the government’s own restrictions.
“It’s madness. Mitchell Shire residents deserve far better than this.”
At yesterday’s daily government media conference, Health Minister Martin Foley attributed the Mitchell Shire’s lockdown to its close proximity to Melbourne’s northern suburbs, where there are large outbreaks.
“I think its got still a few days of its current declaration to play out,” he said.
“All the epidemiological conditions of all the areas that are in lockdown, be they metropolitan Melburne, Mildura or in this case Mitchell Shire, are reviewed constantly.
“As the public health team get to their point of decision making, we’ll share that with the Victorian people, and particularly the people of the Mitchell Shire, but we’ve got nothing to announce today.”
Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes last week implored people to follow health advice.
“I am the only member of parliament who lives and works in the Mitchell Shire, I talk with people impacted by the lockdown everyday, I know it’s hard and I know we all want this to be over,” she said.
“While I know the Mitchell Shire community are frustrated and tired of restrictions, we will continue to keep the community safe by following public health advice.
“I’m saddened that there are so many active cases in our shire and the risk this poses to our community, particularly the most vulnerable. That is why the public health advice is for our LGA to be subject to the same restrictions as metro Melbourne.
“Vaccination is our ticket out of this pandemic and getting back to doing the things we all enjoy with those we love.”