Local health providers meet to discuss the COVID-19 response

LOCAL health providers have been meeting to discuss preparations for coronavirus, as the Gippsland Times went to print.

The meeting was organised by Central Gippsland Health and other medical service providers, and Wellington Shire Council said one of its officers would also be attending to gain “awareness regarding health sector readiness, and preparedness in the context of broader emergency management plans”.

The local discussions follow the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic on Wednesday, its directorgeneral saying WHO was “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction”.

Tedros Adhanom said “pandemic” was not a word to use lightly or carelessly.

“It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death,” he said.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus.

“It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus.

“And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.”

Dr Adhanom said all countries must aim to stop transmission and prevent the spread of COVID-19, whether they faced no cases, sporadic cases, clusters or community transmission.

A Wellington Shire Council spokesperson reiterated that council did not provide medical emergency messaging – that came from the Victorian Chief Health Officer.

“If messaging needs to be disseminated, council will share official messaging and warnings,” the spokesperson said.

The Wellington Municipal Pandemic Influenza Plan is activated by the municipal emergency response coordinator (Victoria Police) with a request for appropriate municipal resources as needed by the Department of Health and Human Services in its role as lead agency for human disease and illness.

The plan has not been activated.

Meanwhile, Latrobe City Council has postponed this month’s Sister Cities Festival, which was scheduled to take place on March 20. While falling short of mentioning COVID-19, Latrobe City mayor Dan Clancey said many major events had seen a significant reduction in attendee numbers in recent months.

“We have consulted with our stakeholders and have concluded that it is in the best interests of marking this significant milestone, celebrating 20 years of collaboration with our sister city relationships with Takasago in Japan and Taizhou in China, that we postpone,” he said.

“We want to ensure that we have maximum attendance; under the current environment this may not be possible.

“We understand that many will be disappointed by the decision, however we are committed to rescheduling the festival and are exploring options for a spring celebration.”