COVID cases send regional Vic city into snap lockdown

A snap lockdown has been declared for the central Victorian city of Ballarat after four COVID cases were confirmed.

Ballarat will begin a seven-day lockdown at midnight Wednesday, following confirmation of the infections in two essential workers and two of their household contacts.

The workers’ infections were confirmed on Tuesday, while the household contacts are among 423 new Victorian cases on Wednesday.

“There are likely to be more cases. We have had positive wastewater detections from the eighth [of September],” Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said.

“It’s through all the testing that will happen through the course of the plan tomorrow that we might identify another four, five, 10 community cases. We don’t know for sure.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said the virus’s spread in Ballarat had come from movements of authorised people, and it would likely spread further without the snap lockdown.

“Those patterns of movement mean that the virus would hitch a ride and potentially, if unchecked, spread right throughout regional Victoria and compromise the very low numbers of cases in regional Victoria right now,” he said.

“This is what the national plan calls for – targeted lockdowns in order to preserve the low virus status of a larger group.”

Concern about COVID’s spread in regional areas is not limited to Victorian.

Yass, in NSW’s southern tablelands, was sent into a two-week lockdown on Monday after a lone case was detected. In nearby Young, where at least one case has been found, there is speculation it is also facing another snap lockdown.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said the infected person in Young also spent time in Wagga Wagga and Mudgee.

“There is a process if there are cases in towns and we advise on action. We are pulling those pieces together with exposure sites. It is important that everyone in Young follows that public advice, which will be issued locally,” she said on Wednesday.

“There are a number of venues and other urgent testing is being undertaken.”

Victorian authorities will boost testing and vaccination in Ballarat as they try to find out far the virus has spread. There are already several exposure sites in the regional city (see them all here).

Professor Sutton said “the great majority of people” in Ballarat had had at least one COVID shot.

“That is a fantastic starting point. If you are not among them, please get amongst them,” he said.

Elsewhere, however, another regional Victorian city will leave lockdown on Wednesday night. There have been no new coronavirus cases in Shepparton for three days, following a recent outbreak.

“Shepparton has shown us the way – that you can control even the Delta variant even with dozens and dozens of cases if you can quarantine all of those contacts, get very high rates of testing, and drive
vaccination all at the same time,” Professor Sutton said.

Victoria also reported two more virus deaths on Wednesday, taking the toll from its current outbreak to eight.

They were a man in his 70s from Melbourne’s outer-west and 46-year-old Martin Blight, who lived in the city’s north.

Mr Blight caught the virus after a workplace outbreak, according to the Australian Services Union.

The union remembered Mr Blight as “a committed ASU member, a father, a friend to many” and said his family encourages everyone to get vaccinated “as soon as possible”.

It’s unclear whether he was vaccinated but he had a Pfizer vaccine booked in for September, according to his Facebook page.

-with AAP

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