Negatives a huge positive

Negatives a huge positive

Orbost and Marlo may have dodged a COVID bullet.

The news last Monday of a 25-year-old female Melbourne resident possibly infecting a number of locals around the area with COVID-19 last Monday prompted a swift and necessary response from locals, but ultimately it could still have a damaging effect on numerous businesses.

As of 12.15pm yesterday 330 of the 332 test results taken at a pop-up testing clinic at Lochiel Park from Wednesday to Friday had been returned. All were negative.

Those deemed close contacts will again be tested this week.

“It’s great, it allays some of that anxiety people may have been having,” Orbost Regional Health chief executive officer, Vicki Farthing, said.

“We still have to re-test those who were deemed close contacts, about 15 or so, on day 11, which is mid-week.”

“I think it was an awakening. We are fairly remote, a long way from Melbourne, but we’re not excluded from this virus, it can travel far and wide and this has shown how easily it can spread.

“It’s an eye opener, the jolt I think we needed as a community. It’s great to see more people wearing masks, looking for hand hygiene, being socially distant - those messages seem to be driving home.

“But we do have to be conscious it could happen and I think for busi-nesses it just shows how important it is to keep logs of the people who enter, because it can give us a leg up with contact tracing.”

Prior to the scare East Gippsland had recorded two positive tests in total and was on track for a further easing of restrictions.

The infected person was tested in Melbourne and instead of self isolat-ing travelled to the region with their partner.

Subsequently the couple has been fined $1652 each and are now self isolating.

The Marlo Hotel, Leon Palace and Snowy River Bait and Tackle were just some of the venues the infected person and her partner entered. Marlo Hotel has since undertaken a deep clean and reopened on Monday.

Isobel Leong, from Leon Palace, said communication from the Department of Health and Human Services left a lot to be desired.

“We were first directed from a community member that we had had a positive case get take away from our shop and then we tried multiple times to contact the Coronavirus hotline to find out what we needed to do but we either couldn’t get through or the staff members couldn’t help us,” Isobel said.

“In the end we decided to test all our staff and then conduct a deep clean throughout the store, even though the case was only in the store to collect her takeaway for no more than 20 minutes.

“We are happy to say that we are all negative and back open for business, thank you to the community for your patience.”

The infected person and her partner last week released a statement saying they were deeply sorry for their actions.

“(We) realise we have made the biggest mistake of our lives leaving Melbourne and heading to a rural town during lockdown in a pandemic,” the statement said.

“Never did we ever imagine we’d have it, as we have never personally known one single case.

“We are extremely remorseful and sincerely from the bottom of our hearts apologise for all the inconvenience and heartache we have caused.”

IMAGE: Orbost Regional Health’s Susie Wait, Kim Griebenow and Jo Loughran with Latrobe Regional Health’s Jillian Steer (third from left) at the pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic at Lochiel Park last week. The clinic was set up in response to a potential virus outbreak in the area after an infected Melbourne resident travelled to the area. As of 12.10pm yesterday, all but two tests results from 332 had returned, all being negative. (PS)