Frustrated locals bite as lockdown hits

Long queues have formed in one major regional Victorian town as it enters lockdown tonight. But it’s good news for residents in another city.

Long queues have formed at testing sites as the residents of a major Victorian regional centre find themselves entering lockdown after more than a year without a single case.

From 11.59pm on Wednesday night, residents in Ballarat will face most of the same restrictions as those in Melbourne after a sudden burst of Covid-19 cases in the area.

The only restriction they won’t face is a controversial night time curfew.

The lockdown is expected to last until Wednesday, September 22 at 11.59pm but residents aren’t happy, with Liberal Ripon MP Louise Staley describing it as a “heartbreaking turn of events for the residents and businesses of Ballarat”.

Ballarat recorded four cases, but with multiple exposure sites and wastewater detections in the area, officials fear the virus has spread.

“The constant in and out of lockdowns is not fair and not sustainable,” Ms Staley said.

“The National Plan must continue with vaccinations being our top priority.”

In Ballarat, there will only be five reasons to leave home, a 5km travel limit will apply for shopping and exercise, and increased restrictions will be in place.

“It’s been a huge day for Ballarat with the announcement that we’re about to go back into lockdown from midnight tonight for at least 7 days,” Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney said. “This will be very disappointing news for most, even if few will be surprised after positive wastewater tests over the past week, and positive cases announced yesterday and today.”.

He urged the community to “stay safe” and get tested.

Shadow Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said it was “frustrating” to be going back into lockdown.

She told Sky News after “over 18 months into the pandemic we shouldn’t be here”, but “there’s nothing we can do to change the past.

“Staying home and following the advice will save lives right here in Ballarat.”

Despite the anger, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton Professor Brett Sutton said the lockdown measures would give the city “the best chance of opening up again in the shortest time possible”.

“Shepparton has shown us the way: that you can control even the Delta variant, even with dozens and dozens of cases,” he said.

As Ballarat enters lockdown, the regional Victorian city of Shepparton will be released from one tonight.

In Shepparton, residents will be free from lockdown but under the same restrictions as the rest of regional Victoria after a lockdown, which on September 1 had a cluster reaching 112 cases, has now been brought under control.

There are now 61 active cases in regional Victoria, with the vast majority in Shepparton but already under quarantine.

The rules include reopening venues with capacity limits.

“It’s great news for Shepparton, not so great for the people of Ballarat,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday.

“If we allow it to get away in one part of regional Victoria, it becomes a threat and a risk to all of regional Victoria. We simply can’t have that happen.

“Shepparton shows you that a community can be locked down, can stick together, can be supported and deliver fundamental control of an outbreak.”

Victoria recorded 423 coronavirus cases and two deaths on Wednesday, with the number of active infections hitting more than 4000.

Five of those cases were in the regional areas of Ballarat and Geelong.


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