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Victorian towns plunged into lockdown despite never recording a COVID-19 case

Four regional local government areas in Victoria have never identified a single case of coronavirus – but are now facing a strict Stage 3 lockdown.

Indigo, Towong, Buloke and Hindmarsh will enter the six week lockdown from midnight on Wednesday.

Residents of Indigo and Towong, which comprise of about 72 suburbs along the border with New South Wales, are likely to be hardest hit.

Many need to cross the now-closed border to NSW for work or grocery shopping and have watched as their whole lives flipped upside down despite seeming so far away from COVID-19. 

So far, nobody in their region has been diagnosed with the deadly respiratory infection, but people are nervous the latest outbreak could impact them.

Wendy Killeen, a winemaker at the Rutherglen winery in Indigo Shire, admitted she feels ‘a bit scared’ at the prospect of the virus reaching her community.

‘We have a lot of visitors, we’re only three hours from Melbourne. Those people could be carriers and that’s a risk nobody wants to take,’ she told The Australian.

‘We closed our doors on March 27 and reopened June 18… we’ll have to shut our doors again on Thursday.’

Ms Killeen explained that her daughter and a handful of staff live on the other side of the border and had been battling with authorities to get their permits sorted.  

‘Now we’ve had this lockdown. It’s difficult but I do ­appreciate why it has to happen,’ she said.

The Indigo Shire has a population of about 15,000 people, and relies heavily on tourism – which was substantially impacted during the first lockdown and will be again this time around.

Neil Aird, CEO of Business Wodonga, critiqued the border closure and described the time it took for Premier Daniel Andrews to declare a second lockdown in Melbourne as ‘unfortunate’. 

‘In hindsight, a harder lockdown earlier should have been ­essential,’ he said. ‘This second lockdown is devastating for us.’

The Buloke Shire – which consists of about 86 suburbs but only has a population of about 5,000 – has also never recorded a case of coronavirus.

The region is known for its agricultural efforts, particularly grain and sheep production, and will now be forced to limit work as regional Victoria is plunged into Stage 3 lockdowns.    

Nineteen suburbs in the Hindmarsh Shire are in the same position, despite having recorded no COVID cases.  

The Stage 3 lockdown will come into effect at midnight on Wednesday August 5.

Many of the rules will be similar to the first lockdown back in March, but wearing face masks has also been made mandatory in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

There will be only four acceptable reasons for people to leave their homes.

  

People must not have visitors at their homes. The only exception to this rule is to visit a partner. 

Restaurants, cafes and pubs will be closed for dine-in patrons again, and all entertainment and cultural venues will also be shut.

All students will return to remote learning, and holidays must be postponed or cancelled. 

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