Lockdown nears end

Local police check vehicles in Stratford to ensure compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, as well as traffic offences, at the weekend. Photo: Eyewatch - Wellington Police Service Area Facebook page

WHILE we might soon escape lockdown 5.0, it seems Victorians may be living under tight restrictions for some time yet.
At the time the Gippsland Times went to print on Monday morning, no decision on ending Victoria’s lockdown had been announced yet.
However, after days of recording new local cases linked to known outbreaks and isolating for their entire infectious period, the state was poised to be released from lockdown Tuesday night from 11.59pm.
The initial five-day lockdown announced on July 15 was extended by another week as initial movement restriction failed to stem the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus in the community.
On Monday, multiple media sources were reporting despite the state’s imminent end to lockdown, Victorians would be facing months of tight public health restrictions until the state’s Delta outbreak was terminated.
On Saturday, Premier Daniel Andrews remarked the state was “well-placed” to have the lockdown lift, but noted the situation was “dynamic”, and things may rapidly change.
Mr Andrews said he hoped to make a change that applied to “the whole state”, implying there will be no regional-metropolitan divide as in previous lockdowns.
Masks are likely to remain until the state hits its target vaccination levels, but the Premier flagged getting children back to school and removing the five reasons as priorities in the lockdown lift.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton added testing numbers would need to remain high in order for health authorities to make the call to end lockdown.
Health authorities also expressed concern that an anti-lockdown protest of about 3500 unmasked, unvaccinated people which took place in Melbourne’s central business district at the weekend could actually achieve the opposite of its aim, and extend the state’s heavy restrictions if there was any spread.
On Monday morning, the Health Department reported 11 new, locally acquired cases of COVID-19 — all linked to known outbreaks and in quarantine for their entire infectious period — after the same figures were reported on Sunday.
Sunday’s case numbers included a third positive case of COVID-19 in Wellington Shire, but Gippsland Regional Public Health Unit assured the community this case poses very low risk, with no exposure sites. This new case is not linked to the other positive cases in the shire, and is the only person within their household.
This new case is a primary close contact linked to a tier 1b exposure site out of the region and has been isolating during their entire infectious period.
It will now be managed via the COVID Positive Pathway process, which will include regular contact and health monitoring.
The Gippsland Region Public Health Unit will also continue to support these three individuals, who are safely quarantining.
On Friday, Heyfield’s Timberline General Store celebrated the news via Facebook that its staff had tested negative to COVID-19 after the store was declared a tier two exposure site last week, and that it would reopen on Saturday.
Mr Andrews described figures recorded during the weekend as “essentially a zero day, because everybody who tested positive was locked away in iso for 100 per cent of the time they were a risk to public health”.
Health authorities did not add any new exposure sites to the list for the second consecutive day on Monday, but there were 385 active exposure sites listed on the website.
More than 20,000 people are isolating as primary close contacts as a result of the exposure sites, but thousands of these are coming to the end of their isolation period as tier one primary close contacts or household contacts of primary close contacts.
Exposure sites are updated several times a day, and can be found via www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/exposure-sites.
More than three million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have now been delivered across the state.
Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccinations are available in the Wellington Shire at: Gippsland Regional Sports Complex, Sale, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9.30am to 3.30pm; Wellington Respiratory Clinic, Inglis St, Sale, Monday to Fridays, 8.30am to 5.30pm; and Yarram Medical Centre, Tuesdays and Fridays 9am to 3.30pm
Bookings must be made through the Victorian state COVID-19 Hotline, 1800 675 398, or online.
Currently, AstraZeneca vaccinations are available at approved medical centres around the shire, including Ramahyuck Gippsland Family Practice, Sale; Maffra Medical Group; the Clocktower Medical Centre, Sale; Heyfield Medical Centre; Sale Medical Centre; Stratford Medical Centre; and Johnson Street Medical, Maffra.
Book appointments by phoning 1800 675 398​. Walk-ins may be available at some clinics.
For more information about vaccination, visit health.gov.au.