There is light at the end of the tunnel with restrictions eased slightly this week, but the road to recovery out of the COVID-19 pandemic will still be a long one.
Premier Daniel Andrews said during his much-anticipated address on Monday morning as the State of Emergency was reassessed that from midnight this morning there is now a fifth reason to leave home: visiting friends and family. This is in addition to the four previous reasons - shopping for food and supplies, care and caregiving, exercise, and study or work – if you can’t do it from home.
The number of people who can now attend public gatherings is no more than 10. Indoor gatherings are now allowed for up to five visitors at home, in addition to the normal residents of a household.
Changes have also been made to rules for other significant gatherings - weddings will now be able to have 10 guests and up to 20 people will be able to attend funerals held indoors and up to 30 if they’re outdoors.
More of the outdoor recreational activities that so many Victorians have been missing are also now allowed, including walking groups, fishing, hiking and golf. These activities will be subject to physical distancing to help keep people safe.
These new restrictions and a renewed State of Emergency will be in place until 11.59pm on Sunday, May 31.
The beginning of easing of restrictions is thanks to the vigilance of Victorians and the results of a recent testing blitz across the state, including in Orbost, with initial data providing a better understanding of the way the virus is moving through the community and greater insight into how authorities can respond.
A local testing blitz was conducted in Orbost last Wednesday and Thursday with community members with cold and flu symptoms, as well as designated retail and emergency service workers who were eligible, tested for COVID-19.
The second day of testing was used to also target vulnerable groups who do not currently have any cold or flu symptoms, including people with a chronic disease, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) and staff from targeted categories that included the sectors of supermarket/retail, emergency works and police.
Orbost FoodWorks also held a clinic in their premises with more than 40 staff members choosing to be tested while a handful of shopkeepers had a remote test conducted in their own premises.
As part of the larger target to test 100,000 people in Victoria, which was well exceeded before last Sunday, the widespread testing of health service staff, emergency services, retail staff, aged care residents, Moogji staff, ATSI and community clients will likely show that the local community is free of coronavirus. More than 300 tests were conducted in the area last week alone.
“While there is nothing in our community at present, it is just a bit of reassurance and also a way that we can help to do our bit as a responsible health organisation,” Orbost Regional Health chief executive officer, Vicki Farthing, said.
“We are so thankful that the community has responded so positively to the testing being performed. Given the short time frame to get these clinics operational, I am so proud of our staff for the way in which they pulled it together and thankful that Tim (Behan) and the Orbost Club Hotel would allow us to use his premises.”
IMAGE: Orbost Regional Health staff members, Kim Griebenow, Lauryn Hulme, Erin Russell and Susie Wait, were stationed in the currently unused Orbost Club Hotel bottle shop last Thursday to test various community groups for COVID-19. S135-1225