Regional Victoria is grappling with its inclusion in a statewide lockdown after a COVID-19 cluster breached Greater Melbourne’s limits, spreading to at least three country towns.

Regional Victoria is grappling with its inclusion in a statewide lockdown, after a COVID-19 cluster breached Greater Melbourne’s limits, spreading to three country towns. 
Key points:

  • Regional Victoria is included in a statewide, seven-day lockdown, after a COVID-19 cluster spread from Melbourne to three regional towns
  • Vets and agriculture workers say they need to retain free access across borders
  • Healthcare providers are reporting increased demand for vaccines, but not enough supply  

As of Friday morning, there were more than 120 exposure sites in Victoria, including ones in the regional towns of Cohuna, Bendigo and Axedale.
The border between Victoria and South Australia remains open to residents from outside Greater Melbourne, however the Victorian state government’s five reasons to leave home apply to all travellers. 
However, a stay-at-home order has been issued for travellers entering New South Wales who have been in Victoria after 4pm yesterday, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian urging NSW residents to avoid unnecessary travel. 
Restaurants and cafes in regional areas have already pivoted to takeaway-only services and hospitals are receiving record interest in the vaccine rollout.
Vaccine hesitancy declines
Health providers are reporting a uniform boom in vaccine requests across regional Victoria, with a record number of vaccinations given in all areas of the state. 
South West Healthcare COVID-19 co-ordinator Sue Anderton, who is based at Warrnambool’s vaccine hub, said the facility could not acquire enough doses of the vaccine to meet demand. 
“We’ve immunised a lot of people in our region, more than other regions,” Ms Anderton said. 
“Supply of Pfizer (vaccine) for us is still an issue. Currently, we’re running one clinic a week and that’s booked out. 500 Pfizer (shots) booked out.”
Lee OConnor, a sales assistant from Horsham, says she brought her vaccination forward after the latest lockdown was announced.(ABC Horsham: Alexander Darling
Further west in Horsham, vaccine clinics are reporting a marked increase in people willing to roll-up their sleeves.
Lister House CEO Amanda Wilson  whose organisation runs the Horsham vaccination centre said demand had dropped to a point where walk-in bookings were being accepted last week. 
The same people that cancelled vaccine appointments (in April due to blood clotting concerns) have come back to get vaccinated, Ms Wilson said.
We have vaccinated 150 people in the past 24 hours, when we were only doing around 40 a day two weeks ago and only 100 a day when the vaccine rollout started.
Supply and demand, staffing issues
Practitioners in Gippsland are reporting similar increases, raising the ire of practitioners who are scrambling to find staff. 
Dr David Monash says his Gippsland clinic may struggle to cope with the unexpected vaccine demand.(Supplied: Inglis Medical Centre
The federally funded Wellington Respiratory Clinic at Sale, in eastern Victoria, has been inundated with vaccine bookings since the lockdown was announced.
General Practitioner Dr David Monash said he now fears his clinic may struggle to cope with the unexpected demand.
All of a sudden people want to be vaccinated when theyve basically wasted the last eight weeks sitting around just thinking about it,” Dr Monash said.
“If they actually came forward earlier, we would have been able to do two or three times as many vaccinations already.
The slow rate of vaccine presentations in the past couple of months means that weve had staff gradually drop off and now weve got to try and lure them back to deal with the spike in demand.”
However, Ballarat faces the opposite issue: It has more vaccines than people walking through the door. 
A nurse prepares for a busy day administering vaccines in Traralgon but some seats are remaining empty.(ABC Gippsland: Emma Field
Nearly 700 people were vaccinated in the regional city yesterday in a record day for the town, however the region’s mass vaccination hub has the ability to do nearly double that number, according to Ballarat Health Services CEO, Dale Fraser. 
“The clinic has far more capacity than that,” Mr Fraser said. 
“I would urge anyone who is eligible to come, either by dropping in if you’re eligible for AstraZenecca, or if you’re between 40 and 49  you’re eligible for Pfizer.”
‘People need us’
For cross-border workers such as veterinarian Rebel Skirving, traversing the border between Victoria and South Australia is a daily occurrence.
However, a hard limit between the two states could put her and other essential workers in a tough situation. 
“As long as we can keep getting essential travel passes, then we’ll keep servicing clients on the Victorian side of the border,” Ms Skirving said. 
“With previous lockdowns, (access) has limited our ability to service our clients on the (Victorian) side of the border.”
South Australian police officer at the Nelson border checkpoint into Victoria.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham
The Mount Gambier-based vet said farmers on both sides of the border would be impacted if barriers were put up. 
“Vets are a rare commodity at the moment,” she said. “Farmers aren’t excited about it … trying to find someone else to do it from the Victorian side might be difficult if we can’t get across.”