Hotspot title gone, virus threat looms

Testing nurses at Pakenham''s Henty Way testing facility. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS 210413_14

A testing blitz targeting Pakenham has concluded and our unwanted “hotspot” title has been removed, but the virus threat is far from over.

As of Tuesday 7 July, the Cardinia Shire had zero active Covid-19 cases, but active infections in Casey had risen to 20.

The total number of positive cases recorded across Cardinia and Casey is now sitting at 22 and 125, respectively.

Bass MP Jordan Crugnale said test results from the 10-day suburban testing blitz would determine the next steps forward.

“We are waiting on the results to come through so we can get a clear picture of what is happening to then determine where to from here,” Ms Crugnale said.

“This is far from over, the virus is highly infectious and whilst we are able to move around a bit more freely, we have ‘hot zone’ postcodes that have gone back to stage three restrictions for the month and 3000 fellow Victorians living the nine towers cannot leave their front door at all.

“This is intense and really tough for them.”

It comes as rumours swirled about the potential for further lockdowns across Melbourne, with several media outlets reporting a state-wide lockdown was being considered.

A total of 164 cases were recorded on Tuesday 7 July and 27 cases were reclassified, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Chief health officer Brett Sutton said it was more important than ever for all Victorians to follow the current health directions.

“This virus is not selective – it will impact anyone it encounters, and personal contact is the clear source of its transmission. We need everyone to do their part and ensure it is stopped in its tracks,” Dr Sutton said.

“There is no excuse for not getting tested. We have people knocking on your door, coming to your neighbourhood – we are bringing the testing to you. There are also several drive-through and fixed sites where people can go.”

Monash Health told the Gazette on Friday that there was no plans to close Pakenham’s IYU Reserve drive through testing facility.

Ms Crugnale said it was “so encouraging” to see many Pakenham residents present to the drive through, at the end of their street or at their doors to get tested.

“It shows that in a crisis we come together to protect the health of everyone,” she said.

“We cannot slack off here and pretend everything is alright, we still have to be super attentive and maintain our physical distance, keep at the good hygiene and if you are sick, get tested, don’t go to work and stay at home.

“This is a community effort, we are all messengers of good behaviour, so ring your friends, share the DHHS links on your socials and talk with your neighbours.”

Liberal Gembrook MP Brad Battin said the handling of Pakenham’s Covid-19 testing blitz had raised “serious questions”.

Mr Battin said multiple constituents had expressed their dismay and anger at the way they were treated after being branded a “hotspot”.

“Being targeted as a hotspot suburb was terrible enough for residents of Pakenham, considering the meagre number of cases. Now when they do the right thing and get tested, they’re subject to lengthy delays which are inexcusable,” he said.

“I am also concerned with reports about the delays and the manner in which tests are being collected from self-testers.

“The Andrews Labor Government have unfairly targeted the residents of Pakenham, an apology and some answers for the way they have been treated is the least he can do.”

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Monash Health were both contacted for comment; both failed to respond to our inquiries.