Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence is calling form calm amongst the COVID-19 virus epidemic. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY and GRANT MAYNARD

MILDURA Mayor Simon Clemence is calling for community calm in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“There’s no need for panic,” the ex-senior policeman said.

“Yes, it is a pandemic, but most people will only experience mild symptoms if they contract the virus,” Cr Clemence said.

“The reason we are engaging in social distancing and the other precautionary efforts to stop infection is to protect those people in our community who are more vulnerable. That will flatten out a sharp rise in cases and allow our health services to cope with the numbers of infected people more easily.

“That, in turn, will give them a much better chance of survival.

“And, it’s not about everyone contracting the virus. It is about trying to protect the vulnerable in our community by doing the right thing .” 

Cr Clemence echoed the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call this week for Australians to “stop hoarding food supplies”.

“I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it,” the PM told the nation this week.

“It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen of Australian behaviour in response to this crisis. 

“That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing. 

“What it does is distract attention and efforts that need to be going into other measures, to be focusing on how we maintain supply chains into shops and shopping centres.”

The PM would not rule out introducing laws to stop hoarding, but has appealed for Aussies to “do the right thing”.

Cr Clemence echoed the PM’s comments saying that it was very disappointing to see people behaving like they have been.

“The delivery trucks are still running. The supplies are still coming from the depots. The shops are still being filled up, for the most part in the mornings,” he said.

“Obviously with shelves being stripped out so quickly they are not being filled as fast as they would ordinarily. The supply chains have to gear up to what’s happening now.

“Tomorrow, next week, and next month there will still be trucks bringing supplies in. 

“Therefore it is really disappointing to see Australians act in this way. I could understand if you were stocking up for a couple of weeks in the event that they had to self-isolate themselves, but apart from that, the supply will keep coming of food and other day-to-day items. 

“People need to be conscious of that and it’s a bit embarrassing to see to see what’s happening. 

“As a community we should be looking after each other and we aren’t looking after each other by stripping out the stores!”

Cr Clemence said that he had spoken to fellow Councillor Min Poole who now lives in Ouyen and she reported seeing a number vehicles from interstate parked outside the supermarket.

“She said there were cars and people lined up at the Ouyen supermarket and they had interstate number plates – they had South Australian and New South Wales number plates and were driving from interstate to other remote rural areas, coming from other towns and cities to other remote rural areas to try and hit the supermarkets there,” he said.

“That is really inappropriate because the supplies will keep coming.”

 

Support our local businesses

Cr Clemence addressed the issue of the event postponements and cancellations acknowledging that it was going to have a major impact on the local economy.

“It is absolutely going to have a big impact on tourism and that is going to impact on accommodation venues, restaurants, cafes and so on,” he said. 

“Clearly that’s a concern and some businesses are going to struggle, but the reality is that you have to follow the Government advice. 

“If the Government tells you to cancel an event we have to do that. It still comes back to the fact that the locals then need to step up and support their local businesses and try and keep them running.

“As long as people follow the Government advice there isn’t any need to shut everything down…to shut the whole town down.” 

Meanwhile, there have been more measures announced at a Federal level to try to combat coronavirus.

The first is a travel ban, now upgraded to Level 4 – No travel out of Australia to anywhere in the world.

“That is the first time that has ever happened in Australia’s history,” the PM said this week.

Mr Morrison also indicated that the present health advice is that schools should remain open, although some have voluntarily closed.

“Interestingly, this is what Singapore has done,” he said.

“In Singapore the schools are open.”

“And there is only one reason your kids shouldn’t be going to school. That is if they are unwell.”

At the same time, visits to aged care facilities are being severely restricted.

Staff and visitors who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days will be banned, as will those who have been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case in the past two weeks.

Also banned will be anyone with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection, and those who haven’t had a flu vaccination after May 1.

No school groups of any size will be allowed in, and children under the age of 16 should be visiting “only by exception”.

Visits will be limited to a maximum of two people at one time.

Meantime, in a attempt to stem the hoarding of foodstuffs and other supplies, Woolworths and Coles are now limiting the number of items of certain products people can purchase.

The supermarkets announced shoppers will only be able to buy two items from each category of mainly packaged goods.

The Member for Mildura, Ali Cupper, has cautioned the community that: “COVID-19 is a threat we need to take seriously.”

“There is no need for panic, but there is a need for vigilance,” she said.

 “It is important that all members of the community, regardless of their health status, to be conscious of their daily activities and practice social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus.

Ms Cupper also echoed the comments of the PM and the Mayor.

“I’m asking people to show respect for one another when they are purchasing supplies. Put simply, stop stockpiling. Stockpiling disadvantages people who have limited ability to get to the supermarket, usually the most vulnerable people in our community who are the most at risk if they contract COVID-19,” she said.

 “I also call on everyone to support local businesses where possible, this may be through purchasing your supplies for home from local bakers, butchers and greengrocers, or taking the opportunity afforded by social distancing to do small projects at home, buy extra books or games or purchasing take away food and beverages from local restaurants and cafes.

 “I want to thank our front line workers – people in retail like at our supermarkets and pharmacies, in health care at places like Mildura Base Hospital and doctors clinics and our teachers who are continuing to teach our children at local schools. It is so important that as a community we treat our front line service providers and workers with kindness, respect and care at all times. Their jobs are critical to our well-being.

“These challenging times call upon all of us to make decisions to protect vulnerable people and limit the spread of coronavirus, and this includes me. Given my parliamentary commitments require plane travel and attendance at an international airport, I made the decision to work from my electorate office this week rather than put my family members and broader community at risk through potential exposure to COVID-19 in Melbourne. 

 “My office remains open to the public as usual, but for the time being all constituent meetings will be conducted by phone.”