COVID: Gippslanders urged to be vigilant

Liz Bell

GIPPSLANDERS who may have had close contact with anyone infected with COVID -19 are being urged to get tested, with several sites across Gippsland now being named as exposure sites.

Anyone who has also recently returned from New South Wales is urged to get tested within 24 hours and self quarantine.

The number of active cases around the state jumped to 38 by Tuesday, with 14 exposure sights in Gippsland, including Lakes Entrance, Bairnsdale, Wonthaggi and Leongatha, as well as suburbs across the Melbourne region from the Mornington Peninsula to Box Hill and Albert Park.

Of the 36 active cases on Monday, 24 were locally acquired cases and 12 were from hotel quarantine.

The new cases include three previously identified close contacts linked to the Black Rock Restaurant outbreak, and on Monday health officials said the list of exposure sites was expected to increase over the coming days as contact tracing continued.

New testing sites and extended hours are available to cope with the high demand for testing, which in some parts of the state has resulted in wait times stretching to up to six hours.

In Wellington Shire, GPs and testing sites have been “busy” according to a local nurse, but there are opportunities to book into some GPs and medical centres.

Traffic along the Princes Highway through Gippsland has been steady, as the closure of the border has led to more than 60,000 Victorians returning from New South Wales and requiring a COVID-19 test.

Testing capacity across the state has been boosted by 40 per cent, and there are currently 200 testing centres in operation, including Central Gippsland Health, in Sale.

By Monday, 32,468 tests were processed, bringing the overall testing total in Victoria since the pandemic began to 3,962,283.

Anyone in Wellington Shire with symptoms, or who may have been a close contact of anyone already testing positive, can go to to find the closest testing site.

If there are no clinics nearby, people should phone a local GP or community health service for assistance.

Across the Mentone and Mitcham cluster and returning travellers from NS W, there are 2765 close contacts in total, with 2406 Victorians being managed as primary close contacts and 359 Victorians being managed as secondary close contacts.

The Chief Health Officer has recommended that the State of Emergency in Victoria be extended to January 29, 2021, as there remains a serious risk to public health.

The Health Department received more than 1500 applications on January 2 requesting exemptions to enter Victoria from NSW.

These applications have been triaged, with 654 requiring additional documentation.

Applications are being processed in a 24 to 48-hour period.

As contact tracing interviews continue, details of exposure sites may change.

A list of each exposure sites including dates and times can be found at–public-exposure-sites.

Victoria’s border with New South Wales is now closed.

Anyone who tries to enter Victoria, without an exemption to enter, will be turned away and will need to find alternative accommodation in New South Wales.

Any Victorians currently self-isolating for 14 days can access emergency assistance including help to access medical and pharmaceutical services, food relief and financial support.

Information about supports available can be found at

Exposure sites:

Bairnsdale V/line train to Caufield (December 30). Lakes Entrance (several sites between December 29 and 30).

Leongatha, Coral Fish and Chips (December 26 and 27).

Wonthaggi Plaza (December 28).

MASKS are also back, and must be worn indoors, including in workplaces, unless there is a lawful reason not to.

This includes when visiting places such as shopping centres, supermarkets, retail outlets and indoor markets; hospitals and aged care facilities; restaurants and cafes, except when eating or drinking; churches and places of worship; libraries; indoor recreational facilities and gyms and indoor workplaces.

Masks must also be worn in airport terminals and it is “strongly recommended” they are worn on flights.

People must carry a face masks with them at all times when leaving home, unless they have a lawful reason not to, so that they can be put on if they are not able to keep 1.5 metres distance from other people while outdoors, or they enter a public indoor space.

Face masks are mandatory on public transport and when in taxis or ride share vehicles.

Face shields, bandanas or scarves or loose snoods, or loose neck gaiters on their own are not considered sufficient, and a cloth face mask with three layers or a surgical mask is recommended by the Chief Health Officer, as it provides the best protection for individuals and others.