The state’s chief health officer has urged Victorians to stay home this Easter, saying holidaymakers are unlikely to be welcome in small coastal and regional communities.
Police also want people to stay at home for the holidays but say they will not be issuing fines to people visiting their own holiday home, if they travelled directly there and stayed at the holiday accommodation for the duration of their trip.
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the only way to avoid risk when visiting holiday homes would be for families to confine themselves there for the duration of their trip and distance themselves from contact with local people or businesses.
Twenty-three new diagnosed COVID-19 cases were reported on Monday, bringing the state’s total number of infections to 1158, including about 620 Victorians who have recovered from the illness.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos also reported two new fatalities from the illness in the state, with the deaths of a man in his 50s and a woman in her 80s bringing Victoria’s death toll to 10.
Ms Mikakos and Professor Sutton say the state is now in a position to carry out an expanded testing program for the virus in an effort to gauge the true rate of community transmission of COVID-19.
Emergency services personnel, school teachers, childcare and other workers will now be tested if they display ‘acute respiratory’ symptoms. Anyone aged over 65 and unwell will also be tested, even if there are no underlying conditions.
An increase in the number of laboratories around the state carrying out tests to 34, and a dramatic drop in the number of international arrivals who need tests have allowed the state’s screening effort to enter a new phase, the health minister said.
But with about 250,000 Victorians typically showing sniffles, coughs or other respiratory symptoms on any given day, testing of everyone displaying those signs was impractical, Professor Sutton said.
He said families should resist the temptation to travel during the Easter holidays and stay in their main places of residence.
But he went on to say that if travellers went straight to their holiday homes and stayed there, then the risk was “manageable and acceptable”.
“But we are saying, if you don't have to leave home, please don't leave home,” Professor Sutton said.
“We certainly don't want people going to communities and causing concern because they are not following the directives that we've laid out.
“If they're on the streets, if they are engaged in activities in close proximity to other people and they are seen by those host communities to be doing that, they will rightly be pointed out and I think that would be unwelcome if they're doing that.”
Deputy Police Commissioner Shane Patton also asked people not to travel during the Easter break, saying travellers on the road would stop at shops, services stations and for other reasons.
But Mr Patton said people on the way to their holiday houses would not be fined, if that was the chief health officer’s orders.
“If someone travels to a holiday, or they have ownership in it and the chief health officer says that it's OK to travel to that, directly to that and to stay there, then we of course we won’t be fining them,” Mr Patton said.
“We adhere to what the chief health officer’s directions are.
"But the reality is, every Victorian should be travelling as little as possible and they should be staying at home as much as they possibly can.”
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