Pleas to get tested

Bass MP Jordan Crugnale at Pakenham''s drive through testing facility. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS 210445_03

Premier Daniel Andrews is urging Pakenham residents to continue to get tested, as he remains hopeful that suburban hot spots won’t be subjected to checkpoints or strict lockdown orders.

A total of 49 new Coronavirus cases were recorded in the past 24 hours to Sunday 28 June, as “literally hundreds” of people doorknock properties across hot spot suburbs.

Four of the new cases are connected to known outbreaks, 26 came from routine testing and 19 are under investigation.

The Premier said more than 11,000 tests had so far been collected since the suburban blitz began on Thursday, which identified Pakenham, Hallam, Keilor Downs, Broadmeadows, Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Brunswick West, Fawkner and Reservoir as problem suburbs.

Pakenham was selected as a “hot spot” due to the high rates of recent community transmission, the risk of undetected coronavirus circulating in the community and the risk of outbreaks occurring that threaten Victoria’s suppression strategy.

At present, a walk in testing clinic is operating at the Pakenham Health Centre on Henty Way and a drive through testing facility has opened at IYU Reserve on Henry Road.

The Premier likened the crisis to a bushfire and said putting it out was “very challenging”.

“The challenge here is we have to test in those hotspots but at the same time we can’t take our eye off any other part of the state,” he said.

“We have to keep those testing numbers up to a satisfactory level so that in trying to track and trace one problem we aren’t necessarily unaware of any other problem we might have.”

Since the start of this year, 780,000 tests have been carried out across the state.

From today, 28 June, saliva testing will be made available as an alternative test to the current throat and nose swab, making it easier and more comfortable for people to get tested, including small children.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the alternative testing would make it easier for people in hot spot suburbs to get tested.

“We are urging them to be tested regardless of if they have symptoms,” Ms Mikakos said.

“Please be tested, for yourself and for your loved ones.”

Following media speculation surrounding strict stay at home orders for specific suburbs, the Premier said he was “hoping it doesn’t get to that”.

He said no shutdown or lockdown measures would be imposed until the results of the suburban testing blitz were in.

“If that is deemed the appropriate public health response, that is what we do,” he said.

“But I’m not announcing that today.”

Eastern Victoria MP Harriet Shing told the Gazette that measures to introduce checkpoints in and out of Pakenham weren’t part of the government response.

“Standard traffic controls may be in place around testing centres across hot spots to manage large numbers of vehicles but checkpoints are not part of the government response,” Ms Shing said.

Meanwhile, Victoria will implement mandatory testing for all returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

Those who refuse to comply with testing will be required to remain in quarantine for a further 10 days – 24 in total – to ensure they pose no risk of introducing coronavirus to the Victorian community.

According to the Premier, everyone who left hotel quarantine on Sunday 28 June had been tested for the virus.

As of Saturday 27 June, there were five active cases of Covid-19 in the Cardinia Shire, bringing the total number of cases to 23.

The City of Casey currently has 15 active cases, with a total of 99 existing cases.

On Friday, Eastern Victoria MP Harriet Shing said she was “really hopeful” that Pakenham could be knocked off the hotspot suburb list.

“We’re getting in early to Pakenham to make sure that we can actually knock that on the head but everyone has a part to play,” Ms Shing said.

“This is a really, really important goal to have. We want to make sure that as we move into identifying suburbs rather than focusing on entire local government areas, that we are talking about Pakenham, and not the Cardinia Shire.”