Relief arrives for COVID-battered Vic town

Emergency relief is headed to the COVID-battered Victorian town of Shepparton, as it struggles with thousands of people isolating.

Eighteen of the state’s 80 new infections on Thursday are linked to the outbreak in the town, about 180 kilometres north of Melbourne.

None were isolating throughout their infectious period.

It brings the total number of cases in Shepparton to 67, while about 17,000 residents in the region, which has a population of 65,000, are believed to be self-isolating.

Food distributors, supermarkets and pharmacies are among businesses forced to reduce operating hours due to staff shortages.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday announced the state’s deputy emergency management commissioner, as well as other senior departmental officials, will head to Shepparton to coordinate relief.

“It is no different to a bushfire or flood. The emergency management architecture will be in place but it will be in the main very, very simple things – taking food to people’s doorstep, getting scripts filled,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

“The focus is on getting everybody in Shepparton things they need when they need them.”

About 50 ADF personnel have arrived to support Goulburn Valley Health with testing and door-to-door checks and the premier said a request for further support would be made.

Of the state’s 80 new cases, 67 are linked to known outbreaks, while the source of 13 infections remains under investigation. Forty-one cases were infectious in the community.

Mr Andrews said several new cases had experienced COVID-19 symptoms for a week or more before getting tested.

“When you register a symptom, you cannot wait seven or eight days, as regrettably some of the positive cases did wait a long time before going to get tested,” he said.

“(It) meant they were in a community, out there unknowingly infecting other people and often the people they love the most.”

Mr Andrews urged Victorians to abide by stay-at-home orders, as there were “not many more levers” left to rein in rising case numbers.

“The longer people break the rules or make a judgment that the rules don’t apply to them, the longer these rules will be on,” he said.

“The more cases we have, the more cases that will be in hospital. That’s not being alarmist, it’s just being factual.”

There are 600 active COVID-19 cases in Victoria, including 36 people in hospital, with 11 in intensive care and eight on ventilators.

Meanwhile, about 200,000 Victorians booked in to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, after eligibility opened up to those aged between 16 and 39.

On a typical day about 30,000 vaccine bookings are made.

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