By Michael Giles

IN LIGHT of the fact that there is “a very strong cordon around Shepparton” [Jeroen Weimar August 26] and apart from the one case leaking out to Mansfield, is anyone calling for the remainder of regional Victoria to be released from lockdown on or before the scheduled date of September 2?

The Sentinel-Times put that question to our local State MPs today and also to the leadership of the Victorian Nationals, including Peter Walsh.

The situation in Shepparton is serious. We know that.

As revealed by the Victorian COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar on Thursday, August 26, there were 18 new cases in Shepparton on the day, bringing to 67 the number in the present outbreak.

There are 15,800 Primary Close Contacts in the town going through the rigid 14-day isolation and testing regime that hundreds of people in Phillip Island experienced last month, but with the added concern that there’s a growing number of positive cases.

But the fact is, it is not spreading to other parts of regional Victoria.

So why kill small business and why keep people locked down in parts of the state which have never seen a live case, let alone be at any risk of getting the virus from Shepparton.

If necessary, put the restrictions around the Greater Shepparton LGA and others in Shepparton’s community of interest.

But why, for example is Gippsland locked down.

“We have 67 active cases in Shepparton, another 18 today… but we have a very strong cordon around Shepparton, a very good grip on the situation at Shepparton apart from that one case at Mansfield,” Mr Weimar said.

“We have not seen any other cases in regional Victoria,” he said.

They haven’t seen any positive indications from waste water in regional Victoria either – so why is the vast majority of regional Victoria in lockdown.

Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien reckons if the rest of regional Victoria can be open while Melbourne is in lockdown, then it’s no different with Shepparton locked down.

“Based on an outbreak in Shepparton, which is no closer and with less people movement between here and there than there is between here and Melbourne,” Mr O’Brien said the rest of regional Victoria should be open.

“The Premier said locking down by locality doesn’t work – but it’s been fine to have Melbourne and regional Victoria on different rules in recent weeks. No consistency yet again, and no release of the health advice again,” Mr O’Brien said.

Last time regional Victoria was languishing in lockdown, the Nationals’ Peter Walsh came out and spoke about the unnecessary impact on business in regional areas, on community and also on mental health.

“The mental anguish of the past two lockdowns has pushed more Victorians to the brink,” Mr Walsh said at the time.

“Every day our communities remain closed is another day of lost income for families who are barely making ends meet.

“Victorians deserve a plan out of statewide lockdowns – a plan for a proportionate response that uses rapid testing, good contact tracing and better targeted vaccinations to crackdown on future outbreaks – without locking down our whole state.”