September 14, 2020
Today, a new model for COVID-19 restrictions comes into effect across Victoria.
There will be a four-step process out of the current lockdowns, with regional Victoria effectively moving straight to step two. This step is very similar to the “stay-at-home” restrictions that have been in place up to this point. The overarching reasons to leave home will still apply, but there are some differences around public gatherings, visitors to the home for people living alone, and schools.
When regional Victoria can achieve the two targets below, we will move on to step 3 of the process:
• the daily average number of cases in the past 14 days in regional Victoria is less than 5, and
• there are no cases in regional Victoria with an unknown source in the past 14 days
In order to move to the final step, there must be no new COVID cases for 14 days across Victoria. My concern is that the government is treating regional and rural Victoria as a single entity, which does not take into account the vast distances between communities, or the difference between metropolitan Melbourne and regional and rural communities. I am advocating for a more localised approach that would allow COVID-free country areas to move to the last step by region.
I understand many in our community were hoping and expecting the restrictions would have eased more substantially today. For anyone who is struggling with the trauma of lockdowns, I care about you and I understand. I and my team will do everything we can to support you, so please reach out if you need help.
Let’s continue to look out for each other and keep up the great work in our communities.
We will get through this together.
More information about restrictions is available here.
A face mask or face covering continues to be mandatory across Victoria when you are outside your home.
As part of the Masks for All campaign, I have a supply of masks at my electorate office and at a range of collection points across our electorate for any elderly or vulnerable community members.
If you or someone you know needs a mask, please contact my office on 5382 0097 or email [email protected] and we can arrange to post one to you, or let you know your closest community collection point.
SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES
The state government has announced a new support package which includes grants, tax relief and cash flow support for Victorian businesses.
Within this is $822 million for the third round of the Business Support Fund, which means about 75,000 eligible businesses with payrolls up to $10 million will receive grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000, depending on their size.
There will also be a $251-million Licensed Venue Fund, with grants of between $10,000 and $30,000 available. Liquor licence fees will be waived for 2021.
Payroll tax will be deferred for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for the full 2020-2021 financial year, and the 50 per cent stamp duty discount for commercial and industrial property across all of regional Victoria will be brought forward to January 1, 2021.
There will also be $44 million to help businesses adapt to a “COVID-normal” environment, including access to digital support and training.
More information is available here.
All schools will continue to provide remote and flexible learning for the rest of term 3, except specialist schools in rural and regional Victoria.
These arrangements will continue for the first week of term 4, except VCE and VCAL students can attend on-site for essential assessments during this week, including the General Achievement Test on Wednesday, October 7. On-site supervision for children of permitted workers and vulnerable students continues in line with existing guidelines.
Schools in rural and regional Victoria can then stagger the return of different year levels, with all students returning to full-time on-site learning by Friday, October 16. Rural and regional specialist schools will continue with their current arrangements.
Due to the enormous disruption COVID has had on students completing their VCE, this year every student will be individually assessed.
Previously, students were given special consideration on a case by case basis.
The individual assessment will look at things like school closures, long absences, significant increases in family responsibilities, and mental health.
More details on these changes can be found here, under VCE – Consideration of Educational Disadvantage.
We’ve had a win since my previous update, with the South Australian Government reversing its crushing decision to abandon the 40-kilometre buffer zone for cross-border communities. This zone was reinstated in late August, meaning cross-border community members could again return to work, go to school, see their doctor and get their essential goods and services over the border. I commend everyone who lent their voice to the campaign against the hard border closure. There continues to be many challenges though, including working through how we can get students from Wimmera communities home from boarding school in SA for the school holidays, and then back to school again. I’m working with the SA Premier and the Cross Border Commissioner to get a fair approach for these students so they can see their families before the end of the school year.
There has also been some developments with the NSW border, with new exemptions available for farmers, contractors and those employed in the agriculture sector to be able to cross into NSW from Victoria without having to quarantine in Sydney for two weeks, as per previous rules. Though people in these fields do not have to be part of the NSW border region to cross, they can travel no further than 100 kilometres north of the NSW border. Critical agriculture workers who need to travel further than this will be considered on a case-by-case basis. More information is available here.
There are a huge number of young people in our electorate and across regional Victoria who have been waiting for months to be able to sit a test for their learner or probationary licence. I have been calling on the state government to make the computer-based learners permit test available online, to help clear a growing backlog of test appointments, and will continue to fight for this. I have also been advocating for young people who need their probationary licence to be able to seek or fulfil employment or who require a licence for other critical reasons to be prioritised for testing under the VicRoads undue hardship criteria. Please get in touch with me if I can help advocate for you.
Our communities have done an amazing job of keeping COVID case numbers low. Currently we only have just one active case in Lowan, in Horsham Rural City. The Premier announced on Sunday that this case relates to a person who has been in Melbourne for the past four months, and will hence have no bearing on when regional restrictions will be eased. We wish this person well on their way to recovery.
COVID-19 TESTING LOCATIONS
If you have symptoms, no matter how mild, please get tested at your nearest testing site, and stay at home until you get your results.
Wimmera Health Care Group COVID Clinic
At Wimmera Base Hospital, Horsham, Read Street.
Open daily from 10am to noon, and from 1.30pm to 4.30pm. No booking needed.
Horsham Respiratory Clinic
148 Baillie St (next to Lister House Medical Clinic)
Call 5382 0011 or visit the website here to check opening hours or make a booking.
Western District Health Service drive-through testing service
At Hamilton Base Hospital, entry via Foster Street.
Open between 1pm and 3pm Monday to Friday; 10am to 12 noon on Saturday.
No appointment necessary.
WHERE TO ACCESS HELP
WE’RE HERE FOR YOU
My team and I are available via phone or email if you need help interpreting restrictions or finding relevant information, or if you require assistance with any other state government query. You can reach us by emailing [email protected] or by calling 5382 0097.