The single COVID case in Daylesford had a significant impact on the whole community over last weekend.

It is understood that the person was infected in Melbourne, where they had a dental appointment. They were then contact traced back to Daylesford. The person worked at both Cliffy’s and Beppe’s on Tuesday, September 7.

The person attended Springs Medical Centre on Wednesday to get their second COVID vaccination but was not showing symptoms at the time. Springs, Cliffy’s and Beppe’s then became tier one exposure sites and Pancho’s was identified as a tier 2 exposure site.

The consequences of the exposure sites were dramatic for the local community.

COVID testing queue at Victoria Park

Large numbers of people queued, sometimes for hours, for a COVID test at the pop-up site at Victoria Park over the weekend.

Many businesses took a precautionary approach and closed down for the weekend, including most cafés and restaurants.

With increasing resignation about COVID and Melbourne in lockdown, there were very few visitors in town. Most people just stayed home.

On the bright side, the weather is improving and outdoor activities are looking much more attractive. Vaccination rates in the Ballarat area, including Hepburn, are now at 70 percent first dose and 50 percent fully vaccinated.

It’s likely rates will reach 70-80 percent fully vaccinated across the State in late October or early November. This should results in a cautious easing of restrictions in Melbourne under the current National Plan in time for Christmas.

Even so, the first local COVID infection highlights the challenges of learning to live with COVID once vaccination rates make lockdowns less likely.

A range of issues that will affect locals still have to be sorted out. One of these issues is whether staff, customers, students and people who attend events can be required to be vaccinated. Another is the ventilation, cleaning, density and masking requirements for our schools, businesses, and community venues over the longer term.

As COVID cases become a regular local occurrence over the next year, new rules about who needs to isolate and whether venues need to close will also be needed.

Much more work on the practical problems of living with COVID for local communities like Daylesford and Hepburn Springs is needed. The current Australian Government four phase plan is far too general to deal with these issues.

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