A town in regional Victoria linked to a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak has brought the spread under control through an unlikely community campaign.
Colac, in regional Victoria, had a surge of coronavirus cases after a spate of infections at the Australian Lamb Company abattoir last month.
But the town of 12,000 residents has more than halved its active cases from 80 to only 36 in ten days through a localised social media campaign.
Videos and public health messages were released using local community members under the hashtag ‘Keep Colac Safe’.
Instead of using politicians and health officials videos featured teachers, school captains, local nurses, football coaches and business owners to spread the important message.
The videos were circulated on social media pages like YouTube and Facebook to reach the community and urge them to socially distance and practice good hygiene.
In one video, a young man reveals the reason he is worried about the implications of the virus spreading through the local community.
‘I’m concerned about it. My brother has got cystic fibrosis. If he gets it, it’s pretty bad I think,’ he says.
A nurse from Colac Area Health features in the video several times to share her own story of how she’s treating the stay at home directives.
‘Our grandparents live just up the road, and we have been seeing them at a distance. The community loves to rally around when we need help… and that’s what we’re about here in Colac and I think we can absolutely get through this’ she says.
Colac Mayor Jason Schram said the message was so effective because it was from locals.
‘We had your everyday people who people recognise and are respected and trusted within the community,’ Cr Schram told Yahoonews Australia.
‘The message wasn’t coming from government sources, it was coming from people within the community who people trust.’
He said regional communities have a sense of camaraderie that big cities lack.
‘It’s not a case of everyone knowing everyone’s business, but everyone is in it together and you have to support yourselves out here in these small communities and you rely on each other to help each other out.’
He said the town had ‘pretty much nailed’ the coronavirus, but it was important people continue to stay vigilant.
The town was hit with COVID-19 after two cases were detected on July 19, surging to 92 active cases on August 6.