HINDMARSH SHIRE COUNCIL mayor Rob Gersch has called for residents in regional areas with zero COVID-19 cases to be allowed to continue visiting their towns' shops, cafes and pubs.
The call for the state government to make exceptions to stage three lockdowns in regional Victoria comes five months into the coronavirus pandemic, including two waves in Victoria.
Hindmarsh Shire is yet to record an active case of coronavirus.
Cr Gersch said given this was the case, residents should be allowed to continue visiting local businesses.
"We could survive on local trade if they were allowed to have normal service," he said.
"The through traffic (from travellers) is a bonus, but then we take the risk of somebody bringing in the virus. I would like to see lesser restrictions on areas that don't have the virus, predominantly for our local people.
"If you opened Halls Gap up (to tourists), you would have people coming from everywhere, but if it were opened up to local people, a lot of those local businesses would survive."
Hindmarsh Shire is one of four council areas across Victoria never to have recorded a case of coronavirus. Like all others, it will be returning to stage three lockdown from midnight on Wednesday.
Buloke Shire has had no active cases during the pandemic. Yarriambiack is currently without a case and has only had one active case during the pandemic.
Though Stage 3 restrictions are not as harsh as stage four restrictions imposed on Melbourne, regional restaurants and cafes are only allowed to offer takeaway food services. This is the second time regional Victoria will move to stage three, the previous lockdown lasting from March 30 until early June.
Cr Gersch said he supported moves by the federal and state arms of the National Party. Member for Mallee Anne Webster has written to Victorian premier Daniel Andrews asking him to reconsider locking down regional Victoria.
"Shutting businesses and keeping kids at home in places where there are very low case numbers- and no community transmission - risks decimating the food bowl of Victoria and its already socially isolated communities," said the letter dated Monday.
"Systems of testing, tracing, and isolation are essential to getting on top of this virus, but our regions are not struggling to manage these processes. Regional Victoria is not Melbourne.
"I understand you are concerned that regional Victoria is heading the way of Melbourne, but I urge you to adopt a targeted approach to restrictions, rather than a blanket approach. Please let unaffected regional and remote communities live our lives without undue disruption."
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Western Victoria upper house MP Jaala Pulford said the new restrictions were based on the advice of the chief health officer.
"This is what the experts tell us is required to stop the spread of coronavirus through regional Victoria," she said. "Everyone is acutely aware of impacts of these decisions on the economy, but letting this virus run through te population... unchecked doesn't allow for healthy economic activity either."
"We need to suppress this, and stop it from getting it into communities that have been fortunate not to have any confirmed cases to date," she said.
"Stage three restrictions have had a big impact on the rate of infection in Melbourne."
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