Close Melbourne holes to protect regional Victoria

By Yarrawonga Chronicle

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews must protect regional communities from the threat of COVID-19 by acting immediately to close the many holes in his mythical ring around Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire according to Member for Northern Victoria Region Wendy Lovell and Victorian Nationals Senate Leader Bridget McKenzie. 

“Workers from Melbourne and a lack of screening of passengers on public transport pose a risk to regional communities that we just can’t afford whilst the virus rages uncontrolled in the metro area,” Ms Lovell said.

Ms Lovell said it was revealed over a week ago that contractors from suburban Melbourne were in regional communities entering people’s homes to change lightbulbs and shower heads under the State Government’s Energy Saver program. 

Following an alert being raised by the Shadow Minister for Energy Ryan Smith the Government suspended the program and recalled the contractors to Melbourne. 

“In the meantime, construction workers continue to flood regional areas to work on projects including the GV Health redevelopment and the Shepparton Art Museum. 

“They spend their weekends and days off in Melbourne where they may have contact with people in hot spot suburbs then return to move freely around regional communities. 

“Regional V-Line Services also pose a risk to the regions with many passengers reporting they were not screened in anyway or asked for proof of residency or reason for travelling to regional areas.”

Ms Lovell said it is understandable that some exceptions need to be made to allow for the delivery of essential supplies and for those who provide critical services, however the government must do more to ensure those moving between the lockdown and non-lockdown areas are doing so for essential reasons, that they are screened for risk and that their movements are limited to avoid unnecessary contact with the local community.

Nationals Senate Leader Bridget McKenzie said mayors from across northern Victorian border communities highlighted a range of issues the state border closure has caused for their communities.

Senator McKenzie said cross-border restrictions were concerning for border communities but also highlighted the concern of Melbourne residents making their way north.

“The most concerning matter facing people the length of the Victorian-NSW border and rural and regional Victorian districts is the arrival of Melbourne residents blatantly flouting travel restrictions,” she said.

“I’m shocked that despite the current lockdown there’s cars from Melbourne still rocking up to regional towns.

“Here on the state border every single car, truck, bicycle and pedestrian is being stopped and checked by ADF personnel and police but it sounds like Melbournians are still escaping en masse to regional communities. That’s just not good enough.”