Thursday, September 24, 2020

Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo cases lead to testing push

MORE coronavirus testing is planned for Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo – and stage 4 restrictions in those areas aren't being ruled out.

The Victorian Government announced the testing push on Thursday.

Deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng said there had been 176 cases in Geelong over a two-week period, as well as 23 in Ballarat and 51 in Bendigo.

Prof Cheng said in Geelong there were outbreaks and cases that did not have a clear origin, while Ballarat had three unrelated outbreaks.

In Bendigo, a "high proportion" were attributed to known outbreaks that appeared to be coming under control.

Prof Cheng was asked if those three regional centres could be moved to stage 4 restrictions, as in Melbourne.

"I think we're looking at that very closely, it's a day-by-day proposition," he said.

"We really encourage the community to come forward and get tested so that we can get on top of these transmission chains and hopefully obviate the need for stage 4."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the extra testing would give the government a fuller picture before making any decision on restrictions.

"Current sites are going to be open longer, there are additional testing sites," Mr Andrews said.

"That'll give us the data and that'll mean we can answer that question definitively."

Regional Victorians were being encouraged to get tested if they have even mild symptoms.

These include fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

The government also announced its coronavirus test isolation payment, for those who may be worried about missing wages, would be increased to $450.

More information on getting tested can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website, dhhs.vic.gov.au/getting-tested.

Victoria on Thursday announced 278 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths.