The beers are flowing again at the Westernport Hotel in San Remo after a week closed for lack of hospitality staff. Meals are set to return on Wednesday, January 19.


THERE’S no doubt that the number of active cases of COVID-19 is easing in Bass Coast and South Gippsland.

Anecdotally that’s the local perception and the data coming out of the Health Department backs up the impression with Bass Coast coming down from a high of 706 earlier in the week to 535 active cases on Saturday, January 15.

The easing of active cases has allowed the likes of the Esplanade Hotel at Inverloch to go back to serving meals over the weekend and for the Westernport Hotel at San Remo to reopen for drinks last Friday evening, admittedly after a disappointing week closed to give affected staff time to recover.

But it doesn’t mean the spread of infection isn’t still causing problems with Bass Coast Health waving the white flag on Friday, advising of a severe cutback in services, starting this Monday, January 17, with upwards of 100 staff needing to be furloughed over the past two weeks.

And it’s a good thing the thunderstorms we were warned about by Emergency Victoria on Friday night passed by without incident.

“NO, we dodged a bullet there, they went above us to the north,” said Controller of the SES Unit Jarrod Hargreaves.

Like everyone else though, he has his concerns about the availability of emergency personnel.

“We’re just like any business in that respect, across the network of units in Bass Coast; Inverloch, Wonthaggi, San Remo and Phillip Island, we’ve had people affected by this and you’ve got to make sure they are cleared to return.

“If we could have bought a supply of rapid antigen tests, and we would have had to buy them out of our own funds, we’d have done that. It would have been a lot easier than trying to get a PCR test.

“Members have to get themselves cleared again but we would certainly have helped if we could, but you just can’t get any RAT kits.”

It’s an issue that Volunteering Victoria has raised with government.

Volunteers urgently need RATs to remain safe and effective, they say calling on the State Government to urgently provide free rapid antigen tests (RATs) to every volunteer and organisation involved in the delivery of essential services.

“The current surge in infections and testing only reinforce the pressing need for concrete actions supporting volunteers and their organisations,” Volunteering Victoria said in a media release this week.

“While Volunteering Victoria welcomes the allocation of free tests to concession cardholders, this policy forgets the thousands of volunteer-involving and community organisations and their volunteers,” said Scott Miller, Chief Executive of Volunteering Victoria.

“Organisations and volunteers are under increased pressure. With the Omicron surging, Victorian volunteers are at increased risk of contracting and/or spreading the virus, threatening thousands of volunteers into isolation,” he said.

“The safety of all involved is paramount to building trust through and following this latest wave and the provision of free rapid tests for volunteers in essential services is urgent.

“It is abundantly clear that the Victorian government must urgently act to ensure organisations can count on volunteers to meet the increase demand on their services. Organisations simply do not have the means to provide rapid tests to their volunteers, and volunteers cannot be expected to cover such costs. Without prompt Government action, we fear that the delivery of many essential volunteering programs and activities will be severely disrupted.”

Mr Miller said during the Delta surge, volunteer organisations reported a 43% increase in demand for services, with 56% reporting that they need more volunteers. Additionally, 72% of organisation’s volunteer programs were either only partially operational (60%) or not operational (12%).

“As we aim to recover from the effects of the pandemic, now is a critical time to focus on ensuring safe and effective volunteering.”

Beyond the immediate need for free rapid tests, Volunteering Victoria recommends the State Government create a Volunteer COVID-19 recovery fund of $3 million over the next 12 months as an urgent priority for volunteers to continue fulfilling their vital role in communities throughout Victoria.

“We are advocating for a flexible funding program that will allow organisations to respond quickly to unpredictable environments and meet the growing need for their services.”

Jarrod Hargreaves would welcome an allocation of RAT kits to emergency services but in the meantime, they’ve adapted operations to the reduced number of volunteers available by reducing training and concentrating on operations.

“Thankfully we got through those storm warnings without incident,” he said at the weekend.

Saturday, January 15 COVID update

The spread of active/new cases by Gippsland LGA is as follows:

  • Bass Coast 535 active, 24 new
  • Baw Baw 625 active, 91 new
  • East Gippsland 376 active, 53 new
  • Latrobe City 927 active, 153 new
  • South Gippsland 233 active, 11 new
  • Wellington 379 active, 44 new
  • Gippsland 3075 active, 376 new

Cases by postcode on Saturday, January 15:

  • Mirboo North (3871): 17 active, 2 new
  • Cowes (3922): 110-10
  • San Remo/Cape Woolamai (3925): 70-4
  • Korumburra (3950) 30-4
  • Leongatha (3953): 82-21
  • Fish Creek (3959): 11-0
  • Foster (3960): 31-0
  • Corinella (3984): 65-1
  • Nyora (3987): 1-0
  • Wonthaggi (3995): 176-9
  • Inverloch (3996): 91-4