“Last October I put forward a suggestion that would have ensured a localised approach to COVID outbreak management.
“As the whole state is again under a lockdown for cases clustered in Melbourne, that suggestion is as relevant as ever.
“New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have all managed outbreaks without having to shut down the entire state – the question must be asked, why is Victoria still opting for a whole state lockdown?
“We need to change the way we manage this virus, we need to localise restrictions as much as possible, so they are in place where they are needed.
“My original media release from last October is below – which proposes local health services taking charge and managing the outbreak rather than the centralised approach we are under now.
“In the October release, I also suggested a uniform QR code for all businesses – the Andrews Government has only just made the Services Victoria system mandatory, but it is still optional at many businesses, including supermarkets.
“Last year we showed how nimble our health services could be – outbreaks in Portland, Warrnambool and Colac were managed at a local level and were kept relatively small and were controlled.
“It seems the Victorian Government has learnt nothing over the past 12 months – we are the only state to have had four lockdowns and the only state that can’t manage an outbreak without shutting down the whole state.”
Release Originally issued October 2, 2020
A localised approach to allow for a safe re-opening
Member for South West Coast Roma Britnell has called for a shake-up of the way Victoria manages the COVID-19 pandemic and contact tracing.
Ms Britnell said the state will have to learn to live with the virus for some time to come and the response needs to be localised in an effort to respond to inevitable outbreaks quickly.
She said a structure similar to the CFA, with the state broken up into districts, with chains of command and responsibilities put in place.
Ms Britnell said local health services are in the best position to determine their capacity and ability to manage an outbreak and should be leading the response to the virus, with support from the Department of Health.
“In a bushfire or natural disaster, we activate a local incident control centre – we need to be doing the same thing for this virus,” she said.
“The virus isn’t going to go away until we have a vaccine which could be some years off. But we can’t stay locked up forever.
“We can and should be safely re-opening, while remaining focused on the health of the community.
“Having a locally based response, rather than the current centralised approach will allow us to do that.”
Ms Britnell said her plan for a localised response would include:
- Locally based COVID Response Coordinator to manage local contact tracing and to implement restrictions as required.
- Locally based teams working within local health services to help identify potential dangers and impose local restrictions to best manage capacity in the health system
- Locally based contact tracing teams.
- Implement QR code scanning or manual entry of details required at all local businesses (including supermarkets and large department stores) to assist with contact tracing.
- Information about potential infection locations to be made public, while protecting the identity of the positive case.
- If a positive test identified – Put a ring around the potential outbreak – shutting businesses, schools and other locations.
- Require records to be kept of home gathering and outdoor public gatherings.
Ms Britnell said it was also important for people to continue to be tested if they have symptoms of the virus and for the continuation of economic supports for people required to isolate after being tested.
“We’ve got runs on the board when it comes to managing virus outbreaks while keeping the health of the wider community safe,” she said.
“In both Portland and Warrnambool, outbreaks were kept within clusters thanks to the rapid response of local health services who got on and did what needed to be done.
“The Premier is even mentioning the response in Colac as the gold standard – we have proven we can locally manage this virus effectively.”
Ms Britnell said in the Portland, Colac and Warrnambool example, contacts of positive cases were traced quickly and people at risk were isolated.
“Health services worked with the business community which proactively closed for cleaning and made information available to assist with contact tracing,” she said.
“This collaborative community response stopped those clusters becoming explosive local outbreaks and has highlighted the capacity in the local health system.”
Ms Britnell said it was possible to get back to some level of normal, while focusing on the wider health of the community.
“We are going to need to have some level of restrictions in place for some time to come – I’m not advocating for a free-for-all opening,” she said.
“What I am saying is we need to move to a local response, a more flexible approach, to ensure we can manage the health of the community, the ability of health services to respond and to allow businesses to get back to some level of normal.”