THE Wimmera's sporting communities have begun discussions around the potential impact of coronavirus, as the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic on Thursday morning.
Entering the winter sporting season, AFL Wimmera-Mallee's Jason Muldoon said the football-netball communities would be guided by AFL Victoria protocols.
"There's been no directive as of yet - but it will be a directive coming from the government more than anything," he said.
"We're not sticking our head in the sand about its impact (in the region). It probably will have an effect at some stage, it's just about how much.
"We'll be very much guided by health experts, the government, AFL and AFL Victoria."
Mr Muldoon said clubs could begin taking extra steps to improve their hygiene and minimise the potential spread of the virus.
Wimmera Football League commissioner Trevor Albrecht said the board had had "preliminary discussions" about the potential effect of the virus, ahead of an annual pre-season meeting with clubs next Monday.
Mr Albrecht said the virus created a reason for clubs to "reset their hygiene rules" and take more precautions.
He suggested clubs use individual water bottles rather than sharing bottles.
"I imagine a lot of clubs would be starting to do that," he said. "Little steps like that will be taken in terms of how it is handled.
"I think clubs ... would be on the front foot about this."
Mr Albrecht said the league was considering contingency plans if games were forced to be cancelled.
"It's really hard to know (the impact) until it starts to hone in on us," he said. "But we're ready to discuss what could happen and what provisions we may need to take."
"It might be that it spreads enough through a club or something, and that club has to be essentially shut down for a short period of time.
"If there is a game missed, we are thinking about how we manage the points (on the ladder) and that sort of thing."
Horsham Demons president Rod Dumesny said the rate in which the caronavirus had developed was a concern.
He said the club had not discussed the virus at a board meeting last week, but it would be on the agenda in the future.
"Things have progressed pretty quickly in the last week," he said.
"We're not going to be naive about it - we definitely want to be aware of everything we have to do to minimise the risk.
"We will align ourselves with the guidelines from AFL Victoria, listen to the experts and take the necessary steps.
"We don't want to expose anyone in our community to things that they don't have to."
Minyip IGA owner Luke Cox said while the store had not seen an increase in requests for home delivery since the virus reached Australia, it was something his team has discussed accommodating.
"We do do a couple (of home deliveries) already," he said.
"Being a small store and not having an online presence, if people want or need to stay home (due to coronavirus), then we'd have to look at doing something, otherwise we are not going to get the people coming through the front door.
"There would be a bit of cost involved because you'd have to have a proper food transport vehicle with refrigeration and all those types of things would have to be assessed depending on where it all heads."
Australian government advice on COVID-19 says those who have been diagnosed with the condition must self-isolate, including not going to public places, such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university.
Mr Cox said the impacts of the virus on day-to-day life could affect the store in one of two ways.
"We could lose customer traffic through the front door or it could force people to stop heading out of town, so they might do more of a shop locally than risk bumping into more people in bigger stores," he said.
"Another thing is some of our supplies could be affected depending on where things get made. A fortnight ago where we were unable to order in our 400 gram tubs of salad because the packaging comes form overseas, in this case China. Things like that have to be quarantined off, so there could be a few holes that open up on grocery shells depending on the country of origin."
Horsham Rural City Council community wellbeing director Kevin O'Brien said the council was considering its "Pandemic Plan and a Business Continuity Plan by way of preparation".
"The Pandemic Declaration has not impacted on the delivery of meals on wheels or home support services," he said.
"The service will continue to be delivered as usual unless there are specific instructions received from the Victorian Government Chief Health Officer or if the coronavirus occurs locally and this impacts the ability to deliver the services that council currently provides."
The Mail-Times has contacted Holy Trinity Lutheran and Horsham colleges for comment on whether they had plans to address the risk of coronavirus affecting their communities.
A spokeswoman for St Brigid's College said the school would discuss its response at a meeting on Thursday.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.