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Hotspot residents holidaying in Echuca-Moama as COVID-19 cases climb

By Ivy Jensen

PEOPLE from Melbourne hotspots are travelling to Echuca-Moama, sparking concerns a COVID-19 outbreak in the twin towns is imminent.

It comes as Victoria’s coronavirus cases jumped to 64 overnight Monday and 75 the day before – the highest since March 31.

The major spike in cases has seen testing triple from 20 to 60 people a day at Echuca Regional Health since the 10 hotspots were identified.

Echuca hospital confirmed it had also tested one person from a COVID-19 hotspot on Saturday.

Echuca-Moama authorities and clubs told The Riv people from COVID-19 hotspots were still visiting the area but they had no power to stop them.

Echuca Workers Club general manager Erin Langman in the club with Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh.

Echuca Workers Club general manager Erin Langman said while she was aware this was happening, the club was not checking customers’ addresses.

“It would be great if the hotspots were locked down sooner rather than later, for everyone’s sake,” she said.

A four-week lockdown of Melbourne’s 10 coronavirus hotspots will take effect today, a move supported by State Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh.

He said towns such as Echuca – and by default Moama as well – were popular tourist spots for holidays and so many Melbourne people had holiday homes or regular bookings here.

“We know people have already arrived, they are going into local shops, into clubs and pubs, and it must stop. And stop now,” he said.

With NSW clubs no longer facing customer limitations, authorities are worried about a spike in cases in Moama.

Murray River Council general manager Des Bilske is urging locals and visitors to avoid crowds wherever possible.

Murray River Council general manager Des Bilske said council was always concerned about a possible outbreak of COVID-19 as the number of visitors increased.

“Especially when some are bound to be coming from areas with current positive cases,” he said.

“Council is hopeful all visitors into the area are considerate and responsible enough to avoid travel if they have been exposed to a known case of the virus or crowds inside of COVID-infectious communities or have symptoms.

“Our advice to locals and visitors is to avoid crowds wherever possible. If there is no need for you to be out and about, then stay at home.”

While Moama Bowling Club sales and marketing manager George Santos would not say where customers were from, he said as long as guests complied with current NSW Health criteria and passed individual screenings, they would be welcome to the club, no matter their residential address.

Moama Bowling Club is proving to be a popular place for visitors and locals after customer limits were lifted.

“We are required to obtain all visitors’ contact details, which we do when contractors, members and guests enter the club,” he said.

“We also screen each individual as directed by NSW Health for potential symptoms, recent overseas travel, potential contact with persons exhibiting symptoms of the virus and agreement that each person agrees to abide by current social distancing and other requirements while on our premises.”

Moama RSL Club chief executive Ashley Menzies said many people from around Victoria were travelling to Echuca-Moama, including those from “so-called hotspots”.

“Moama RSL has been and will continue to be vigilant in the application of all mandatory and suggested controls, protocols and procedures,” he said.

“Should the NSW Premier announce changes to the current rules, we will of course ensure we go above and beyond complying with them.”

Rich River Golf Club customers enjoying the cafe as COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions ease for cafes and restaurants.

Rich River Golf Club marketing manager Paul Lavars said the club was waiting on clarification from the NSW and Victorian governments and Clubs NSW about the course of action it needed to take.

“Hopefully we will be issued a directive very soon so we can make the right decision and not discriminate against anyone,” he said.

“We will continue a vigilant screening of guests with temp checks and continue our thorough hygiene practices.”

Campaspe Shire chief executive Declan Moore said Echuca-Moama was a popular destination all-year round and the school holiday break would see many people from Melbourne travelling to the region.

“Recent outbreaks in Melbourne are a timely reminder for us all to remain vigilant, not meet in large groups, and keep up good hygiene including washing our hands. More importantly, if unwell, stay home and contact a GP if concerned about your health.”

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