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Regional Op Ed - Support for communities during COVID-19 restrictions

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Victoria’s continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic has provided challenges at many levels. The crisis continues to touch every corner of the State.

Once again, Victorians are having to rise to the occasion to combat the spread of the virus to prevent it spreading out of control and causing serious illness and death.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those communities who have already struggled so much, yet, remain resilient. Thank you also to the staff, Councillors and Mayors of our Victorian Councils for all that they do to protect and support their communities through uncertain times.

I know you have heard it before, but I would also like to lend my support to this important public health campaign and remind everyone to please continue to monitor the list of exposure sites.

We all need to follow the advice provided, especially while greater Melbourne experiences the high-level restrictions that were initiated last week for a further seven days (until 10 June).

Regional Victoria has had some restrictions lifted. But we can appreciate that, while the reprieve in public health restrictions for regional Victoria will be welcome, there many challenges ahead. Especially for communities that are remain affected by the devastating bushfires and the lockdowns of the last year.

Adding to this, the acting Premier flagged in his statement on 2 June that, regardless of when restrictions are lifted, people from Melbourne will not be permitted to travel to regional Victoria over the upcoming Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

We know this will disappointment and frustrate many regional small businesses and tourism operators as well as families and friends who were hoping to reunite.

This is a tough time for us all, no doubt about it, but it is also an opportunity for all levels of government, the community and businesses to come together and support each other as we move towards recovery.

Councils have remained committed to working with and looking after our communities by providing support and, as the level of government closest to the community, understands how COVID-19 has affected their municipalities and regions.

From delivery of online library, community and family support services to the development of campaigns and platforms to share stories of positivity, resilience, community spirit and kindness.

Practical support measures from Councils have included facilitation of online training and networking opportunities and development of “shop / support local” campaigns as we recognise that the likely economic impacts of the pandemic on businesses and households will be ongoing.

Where possible, we also know that Councils are offering relief through fee waivers, refunds and reductions; relaxing enforcement of infringements; reducing or waiving rent for council facility tenants; and promoting financial hardship policies.

Councils remain open for business, if you need support, it is worth checking your local Council’s website for the services or programs that might be available to you.

There is also financial support available from the State Government for both families and individuals as well as business and industry if you need it.

If you are seeking mental health support, then it’s best that you visit the State Government’s Mental health resources page.

Finally, the number of exposure sites across Victoria remains a concern. As so many people have already said, if you have cold or flu like symptoms, such as a cough, fever, sore throat, shortness of breath or runny nose even if these are mild, you should get tested for COVID-19.

And please get vaccinated! Vaccination will help protect you from getting sick from COVID-19. The vaccines being used in Australia are very effective at preventing serious illness and loss of life from COVID-19.

We are so looking forward to this outbreak being over and all of Victoria re-opening. In the meantime, we can all stay (virtually) connected to our families, friends and colleagues to ensure their well-being, and take the actions we need to and protect all of our community.

Warm regards,
Cr David Clark
MAV President

This opinion editorial was published on 7 June 2021 and appeared in the Ballarat Courier, Bendigo Advertiser, Border Mail and the Warrnambool Standard.