Regional Victorians to wear masks from today

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PREMIER Daniel Andrews has just announced that Victoria has recorded a further 428 cases of coronavirus today.

Of the new cases reported today, 57 of those are connected to known outbreaks, one is from quarantine and 370 are under investigation. Three people died from the virus overnight.

With that announcement came the request that all regional Victorians wear a mask when out in public.

“We are now requesting of all regional Victorians, if you are out and about and you do not believe you will be able to maintain that 1.5 metre social distance,” he said.

“So if you are in a taxi or public transport or an Uber or any other setting such as the shops, if you are out and about in regional Victoria and you do not think you can maintain social distancing then we request that you wear a mask.

“That is a small thing but it can make a really big difference in stopping the spread of this virus and keeping those low numbers in regional Victoria very low.”

The masks may be home-made or may be in the form of wearing a scarf around your mouth but Mr Andrews said this request, which is not law, should be abided by to prevent outbreaks in regional Victoria.

“So we do not have to change the settings and the rules for regional areas of our state,” he said.

“All these things, they never eliminate risk but they reduce risk and that is something that all of us should be completely focused on.”

There have been 42 cases reported in regional Victoria since July 1 and five new cases today but Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the state will improve and increase its contact tracing abilities in the regions.

“We are establishing public health teams in regional Victoria for the very first time,” she said.

“We are facing a once-in-100 year event here with this pandemic and now we are going to be establishing five public health teams based regional health services to enable local people and local communities based on those health services to do the contact tracing and identify cases in the local communities that they know best.

“We are starting with Barwon Health. That team of 10 clinicians will be on the job from this week. And then we will be establishing further sites in Bendigo, Ballarat, Indi, La Trobe Valley and also in Shepparton.

“So all those communities and potentially more if we need to do so, will have locally based public health teams on the job doing that disease detecting work and making sure that their communities can stay safe.”

Ms Mikakos said while regional cases remain much lower than in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, locals must remain vigilant.

“We are keeping a close eye and monitoring the data on a daily basis and it is an important for regional Victorians to not become complacent,” she said.

“This why we are stepping up our ability to identify and respond to cases in regional communities.”

There are currently 60 testing facilities in regional communities but Ms Mikakos said the government is looking to establish new sites and expand existing ones to “make it easier for regional Victorians to be tested”.

This includes:

·         Bass Coast health at Wonthaggi Hospital

·         La Trobe University Royal health School in greater Bendigo

·         Golden Valley health in greater Shepparton base

·         In Koo Wee Rup, based at the community centre and also in

·         A drive-through facility Mildura

Mr Andrews said his health team is “comforted” by the relatively low numbers in regional Victoria.

“These things can change rapidly though and that is why additional test sites and expanded test sites are critically important,” he said.

“I’m very grateful to those who have tested positive and regional Victoria for following those detailed quarantine rules, making sure that they stay at home, making sure they are not spreading the virus through anything that they do.

“That is critically important and again, a really significant contribution that those individuals, albeit small numbers, are making to keeping those numbers very small right across regional Victoria.”

 

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