Coronavirus fight escalates in Geelong & Regional Victoria

Coronavirus testing will be stepped up across regional Victoria and a new Geelong-based public health team will be established.

The moves announced on Friday 17 July are to help slow the spread of the virus in regional Victoria and provide the data needed to inform decisions about restrictions.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has also expanded his recommendation to wear a mask in certain circumstances to now include regional Victorians.

While coronavirus numbers are far lower in regional areas than metropolitan Melbourne, the Government is taking further action to ensure all Victorians remain vigilant against this highly infectious disease.

In recognition of an increase in case numbers in the Geelong region, the first dedicated regional public health team has been established at Barwon Health – starting with 10 suitably qualified clinicians – to provide case management and contact tracing for regional cases and assist metro Melbourne teams where possible.

To ensure authorities can protect regional Victoria, and continue to find as many coronavirus cases as possible, a suite of new or expanded testing sites will be established across regional Victoria to provide local residents with better access to testing.

The new and expanded sites are focusing on areas with higher case rates and recent cases, based on the public health advice. The government will continue to monitor for any gaps and adjust our testing sites and locations as necessary including additional access planned for Gippsland and Ballarat.

Overall there are more than 60 testing sites operating in regional LGAs and testing is also available at many local GP clinics.

Find a testing site

All regional testing site locations, including those in Geelong and the wider G21 region, can be found on the Department of Heath & Human Services coronavirus website, available through a testing site map. Some sites also allow people to check the estimated wait time to help inform their decision making.

Preparations are also underway to set up further teams, similar to that being established in Geelong, at Ballarat, Bendigo and Latrobe health services, Goulburn Valley Health and more regional locations as required, to respond to increasing cases and emerging trends.

Face masks

As a further precaution the Government is now also encouraging regional Victorians over the age of 18 to use a face mask when they leave the house but cannot physically distance – such as on public transport or while shopping for essential supplies.

The Government has always said it would continue to be guided by the medical advice – last month it announced it intended to ease restrictions on gaming and hospitality in regional Victoria – so, due to the number of positive cases all current restrictions for regional Victoria will remain in place.

While the rates of coronavirus remain relatively low in the regions, the risks of spread from metro areas remain.  If authorities can slow and contain the spread of the virus in regional areas with the help of masks and increased testing, options for the regions will remain open for the future.

For information about coronavirus or to find your nearest testing site visit coronavirus.vic.gov.au or call 1800 675 398.

Source: A state government media statement