Melbourne locked-down once again

METROPOLITAN Melbourne braced for bad news on Wednesday, June 2 when the inevitable announcement came that they would have to endure another seven-days of lockdown.
The highly infectious “Kappa” variant of COVID-19 arrived in Melbourne via a hotel quarantine breach in South Australia, in early May.
In in the last week of May, the outbreak reached 60 cases, encompassing exposure sites numbering more than 350 across Melbourne and Regional Victoria.
Locally, there have been no reported cases in Warrandyte, although a burger bar in Doncaster Shoppingtown and a popular petrol station in East Doncaster were listed as exposure sites as part of the outbreak.
Following the announcement, Acting Premier James Merlino highlighted just how frighteningly contagious the Kappa is.
“To date, the approach has been to track the spread through friends, family and workmates.
“People spending time together for minutes and hours — not seconds.
“What we’re seeing now is something else — something even more serious. “At least one in 10 current cases have caught this virus from a stranger. “People brushing against each other in a small shop.
“Getting a take-away coffee from the same cafe.
“Being in the same place, at the same time for mere moments.
“Just walking past someone you’ve never met can mean the virus is jumping to a whole new network.
“And when you don’t know someone — you don’t know their name or where they live — you’re looking for one person in 6.6 million,” he said.
Local businesses, such as Warrandyte IGA and Grand Hotel Warrandyte were both impacted by the 2020 lockdowns, both financially and emotionally.
This latest lockdown is throwing new challenges at Melburnians on a daily basis, as we go to press, there are more than 70 active cases related to this latest outbreak and recent news that the Delta variant of COVID-19 — which is also highly infectious — has also been detected.
As we enter the final five days of the extended lockdown, health authorities race to link mystery cases in this outbreak.
For the local Warrandyte economy, lockdown is particularly hard.
Our bustling restaurant and café strewn high street is eerily quiet and new rules around the mandatory requirement to check in with the Government QR code system is causing additional queues at cafes and supermarket entrances.
It is now mandatory for all customer facing retail businesses to record whoever enters their premises, even if it is only for a few minutes — businesses can take paper records if a customer is unable to use the QR code system, and businesses who are found in breach of following the new mandatory QR code tracking rules could face a fine.

Five reasons to leave home

Under the new lockdown rules, locals have to, once again, adhere to:

  • 10 kilometre radius
  • Some school students on remote learning
  • Limits on weddings and funerals
  • Playcentres, gyms, entertainment venues, hair and beauty and tourism closed.
  • Community sport cancelled
  • Restaurants and cafes restricted to take away service
  • Visitor restrictions on aged care facilities and hospitals

There are now five reasons to leave home; essential shopping, exercise (two hours maximum per day with one other person), care and caregiving, authorised work, and vaccination.
As of Friday, June 4, the lockdown of late May changed slightly — once again Melbourne and Regional Victoria (RV) were separated by rules and although the “ring of steel” has not been reinstated, retail businesses close to Melbourne are being asked to check IDs of all their customers to ensure people aren’t, effectively, breeching Melbourne quarantine.
Checking into the Government’s QR code system will now also be mandatory anyone who enters any retail premises for any duration, even if it is less than 15 minutes.
The Acting Premier acknowledged this was going to be tough, but stated it was necessary.
“No one wants to be here.
“And I know this news is tough for every Victorian, every family and every business in this state.
“But the Chief Health Officer has no choice but to give this advice.
“And the Government has no choice but to follow it.
“If we don’t, this thing will get away from us and people will die.
“No one wants to repeat last winter.
“To stop that from happening, we need every Victorian to follow the rules, to get tested and to get vaccinated when it’s your turn.
“We can do this, but we need to do it together,” he said.

Some good news

While we settle into the second week of lockdown, Years 11 and 12, as well as any student taking a Unit 3 / 4 VCE or VCAL subject have returned to the classroom at this most crucial time and some outdoor businesses, such as landscaping, gardening, painting, et cetera have been reclassified as “authorised” businesses for the extended lockdown.
The State Government has also added an additional $209 million to its business support package, raising the funding to nearly $450 million to support businesses impacted by the lockdown in the form of a series of grants.

New support package for businesses
The aptly named Circuit Breaker Business Support Package aims to help up to 90,000 businesses affected by the current lockdown.
However, there is a catch, one of the requirements for accessing the Business Costs Assistance Program funds is that the business must be registered for GST, as of May 27, 2021. As many businesses know, if your annual turnover is below $75,000 then registering for GST is optional.
Not-for-profits which have an annual turnover between $75,000 and $150,000 and meet the other grant requirements can also apply for the Business Costs Assistance Program. The package is divided into three initiatives:

  • Business Costs Assistance Program •
  • Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund
  • Support for events operators

In its original form, the package would see $190M funnelled into a second round of the Business Costs Assistance Program, offering grants of $2,500 for eligible businesses directly affected by the lockdown’s industry restrictions; this includes restaurants and cafes, event suppliers, accommodation providers, and non- essential retail.
A new round of the Licenced Hospitality Venue Fund will see $40.7M provided to businesses with a liquor license and food certificate, distributed in grants of $3,500 per premises.
With the extension of the lockdown and an additional $209M package, eligible businesses, who find themselves in a second week of lockdown will have access to additional funds.
Businesses which are still unable to open will be able to apply for a $5,000 grant while licenced hospitality venues applying for the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund, who find themselves still unable to operate, will be able to apply for $7,000 per premises.
It is important to note, if you were unable to open for the first week of lockdown but are now able to operate, you will still be able to claim a share of the business support package, but only for the original amount.
For operators in the events industry who have been impacted financially by the lockdown, they will have access to a share of a $20M support scheme.
At the announcement, Mr Merlino said this new package will help businesses stay open in the long term. “The circuit-breaker action will keep Victorians safe and protect businesses and jobs — but we know it’s not easy shutting your doors and putting your plans on hold.
“This support will help businesses pay the bills and maintain their workforce as best they can, as we work together to get through this challenge,” he said.
Minister for Small Business, Jaala Pulford added: “small businesses are crucial to our economy and beyond dollar and cents, important contributors to local communities — we’re proud to stand with them and their workers.”

Emergency essentials in Warrandyte

Warrandyte Neighbourhood House is launching its new food relief service on Wednesday, June 9.
Any locals who are struggling to keep food on the table during the pandemic can collect an essentials hamper on Wednesdays, at Warrandyte Neighbourhood House, Webb Street, from June 9.
See story Page 14 for further details.

Eligible businesses can visit business.vic.gov.au/grants-and- programs/circuit-breaker-business- support-package for further information and to register for a share of the package — most grants opened for application on Thursday, June 3, and are open for three weeks.

Nillumbik unveils pandemic recovery plan

 By SUSAN FOREMAN

AS WE ALL stand together during the ongoing battle with COVID-19, Nillumbik Shire Council has released a critical new “roadmap” to support the community in its recovery from the pandemic.
The Nillumbik Community Pandemic Recovery Plan 2021-22 was endorsed at last week’s Council meeting, just prior to the Shire going into its fourth lockdown in a bid to contain the latest outbreak of the virus.
The plan outlines Council’s initial response, along with the actions it will take to ensure the Nillumbik community can recover as restrictions continue to evolve and life shifts to a “COVID normal”.
The plan is based on four main themes which guide the recovery process:

  • Inclusion
  • Healthy Environments
  • Healthy Behaviours
  • Employment and Education

The plan’s actions span across several areas of Council, and will be supported by State and Federal Government initiatives, and those delivered by community organisations and local partners.
While this plan addresses the short to medium term approach to recovery, Council says it recognises there will be longer term pandemic impacts, which will be addressed through the Council Plan and Municipal Health & Wellbeing Plan.
Nillumbik Mayor Peter Perkins said Council’s approach throughout the pandemic had been comprehensive and collaborative, and would continue to be so.
“Collaboration is a key principle of any work we do, and is especially the case for pandemic recovery,” Cr Perkins said.
He said Council’s approach is reflected in this plan, which highlights
Council’s critical role in service delivery and in advocating to other levels of government on behalf of our community.
“It will be a critical roadmap as we, alongside our community, navigate what continues to be a highly volatile and unpredictable environment.”
Cr Perkins acknowledged the resilience and resourcefulness of the Nillumbik community, which has come to the fore on many occasions over the years, whether in the face of fire, flood or now, pandemic.
“Nevertheless, the challenges of the past 18 months have been like nothing we’ve previously experienced and have, not surprisingly, taken their toll,” he said.
“Council recognises that pandemic response, relief and recovery are all dynamic.
“Therefore, Council is committed to shift and adjust its approach where required, based on local need and the direction of the State Government.”
The plan was largely developed based on the survey results from the Together in Nillumbik survey, conducted last year with healthAbility, an independent, community health organisation.
To view the plan visit nillumbik.vic. gov.au/pandemic-recovery-plan

Keeping our community safe

By STEPHEN BENDLE

WE HAVE ALL heard a lot about vaccines lately.
They have been around since the late 18th century when used to fight smallpox.
There is a pretty strong push for all Australians to get the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as they can.
Some in our community might choose not to; but to avoid future lockdowns, protect the vulnerable among us, ease the stress on our health system and enjoy the wonders of international travel again, we are being encouraged to line up and get the jab.
There are a million websites to review, but the Diary thought we would go straight to those in our community who know best, our doctors, starting with Dr Garth Cooze, GP at Warrandyte Medical Centre, just prior to the latest outbreak.
“It is understandable that some people are apprehensive about a vaccine which has not been around for a long time.
“It is important to note, when making decisions about COVID-19 vaccination, that the risks posed by the vaccinations are infinitesimally small and are by far outweighed by their inherent benefits.
“Vaccinations have been hailed by infectious disease experts as one of the safest forms of medicine.
“As we are heading into the winter months, we face a significant and very real threat in this country, as we have seen across Europe, of virus surge in the community again.
“This virus, as with most respiratory viruses, thrives during the colder months.
“In light of this, it is important not to be complacent — this pandemic, is still very real and we remain in a precarious position (notwithstanding Australia’s clear successes).
“Our principal exit strategy remains en-masse vaccination.
“I would urge people not to delay or be complacent with this.
“We encourage members of the community to get vaccinated, to protect ourselves, our families and also the wider community.
“This will pave the way to some sustainable semblance of normality.”
Dr Paul Proimos from Goldfields Family Medical Centre told the Diary their practice is proud to be part of the biggest vaccination rollout in Australian history.
He encouraged all locals to be vaccinated as soon as they can.
“Goldfields Medical Centre commenced their COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics in April and are currently working through our waiting list.”
The Diary also asked one of Warrandyte’s most celebrated scientists, Professor Doug Hilton AO, who is the Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne and Head of the Department of Medical Biology at the University of Melbourne.
Coincidentally, when we spoke to him, he had just received his first vaccine.
“For me, growing up in Warrandyte meant being looked after by the whole community, which was such a privilege.
“In 2021, by the far the best way we can look after everyone in our community is to get vaccinated.
“The vaccines against Sars-Cov-2 are among the safest and most effective vaccines ever developed.
“The side-effects that have been reported so prominently in the media are incredibly rare — much rarer than the side-effects of medicines we use routinely.
“Please get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible — through your GP or at a mass vaccination centre.
“Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines will reduce your likelihood of getting infected by Sars-Cov-2 and they will reduce the severity of illness if you are infected.
“A single dose of either vaccine is more than 80 per cent effective at preventing admission to hospital and preventing death from COVID-19.
“The second booster dose will greatly increase this protection.
“In addition, both vaccines greatly reduce the chance of passing the virus on to someone else.
“Vaccination is a win for you and a win for the community,” said Doug.
For further information about vaccines, where to get tested or current exposure sites, visit: www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au

A symbol of community spirit and optimism

By JAMES POYNER

JOAN DENISION’S fence post Iso Chooks have returned to the streets of Eltham, Warrandyte, St Kilda, and beyond, as a symbol of community spirit.
Last year, Joan, who has a passion for art and fashion, began painting chicken characters on old fence palings.
These cheerful Iso Chooks became an overnight success and what started as a distraction for her street soon saw Joan painting thousands of Iso Chooks which now adorn gardens and shop fronts all over Eltham.
The Diary asked owners of Iso Chooks to send in pictures of their proudly placed pictoral poultry.
Marg and Michael Weston’s “Three Tenors” from the Woodridge area of Eltham told us a little about the journey their three Iso Chooks have been on.
“We are a very theatrical and musical family and love working in and attending the Opera.
We couldn’t resist calling our chooks The Three Tenors (they cost $10 each). Each of our four adult kids have an Iso Chook, so they are bringing smiles in St Kilda, East Malvern, Ivanhoe and Elizabeth Bay NSW.
Another was gifted to a dear friend in Windermere, Tasmania and is greatly loved down there!”
Joans Chooks are also being given to new Australian Citizens at Nillumbik Citizenship ceremonies.