Emergency aid has arrived in the COVID-hit Victorian town of Shepparton as it struggles with nearly a third of the isolated population.
Eighteen of the state’s 80 new infections on Thursday are related to the outbreak in the city, about 180 kilometers north of Melbourne. None of them isolated during their entire infectious period.
That brings the total number of cases in Shepparton to 67, despite Goulburn Valley Health CEO Matt Sharp confirming that at least five or six more cases had occurred by Thursday afternoon.
Up to 20,000 inhabitants in the region with 65,000 inhabitants are considered self-isolating.
Grocers, supermarkets and pharmacies, among other things, are forced to reduce their operating hours due to a lack of staff.
Mr Sharp said the health ministry is working to downgrade local exposure sites to level one, especially those that involve schools, in order to move close contacts out of isolation more quickly.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Daniel Andrews announced that Deputy Commissioner for State Emergency Management Deb Abbott, as well as other senior officials from the department, had been sent to Shepparton to coordinate aid.
“It’s no different from a bushfire or a flood. The emergency management architecture will be in place, but essentially it will be very, very simple things – bringing food to your doorstep, filling out scripts,” Andrews told reporters.
“The focus is on getting everyone in Shepparton to get the things they need, when they need them.”
Approximately 70 ADF employees will support testing and door-to-door controls over the next week or two, with up to 25 members being trained and deployed on Thursday afternoons.
Shepparton Independent MP Suzanna Sheed said she spoke to Mr Andrews on Wednesday evening and secured urgent assistance, including medical staff, to replace some of the more than 500 GV Health workers on leave.
Opposition leader Michael O’Brien said it had taken the government too long to send aid to the suffering residents of Shepparton.
Of the 80 new cases in Victoria, 67 are related to known outbreaks, while the source of 13 infections is still under investigation. 41 cases were contagious in the community.
Mr Andrews said several new cases had COVID-19 symptoms for a week or more before they were tested.
“When you register a symptom, you can’t wait seven or eight days because unfortunately some of the positive cases waited a long time before being tested,” he said.
“(It) meant that they were in a community and unknowingly infecting other people and often the people they love most.”
Mr. Andrews urged the Victorians to stick to the home stay orders as “there weren’t many levers” left to contain the rising number of cases.
“The longer people break the rules or make a judgment that the rules don’t apply to them, the longer those rules will apply,” he said.
“The more cases we have, the more cases there will be in the hospital. That is not alarming, it is just factual.”
There are 600 active COVID-19 cases in Victoria, including 36 people in the hospital, including 11 in intensive care and eight on ventilators.
Meanwhile, about 200,000 Victorians signed up for a COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday after the eligibility was opened to anyone between the ages of 16 and 39.
Around 30,000 vaccinations are booked on a typical day.
Australian Associated Press