Benalla Ensign

Safety comes first

Benalla avoids COVID-19 despite driver testing positive

- By Simon Ruppert

Benalla survived another scare last week when a delivery driver tested positive to COVID-19.

The driver had visited several businesses in the Rose City causing temporary shutdowns while deep cleans and tests were undertaken.

Businesses, including the New Dragon Gate Chinese restaurant, and Rustik Cafe and Foodstore, took action after being informed of the situation.

Rustik Cafe and Foodstore owner Julie Brown said it closed as a precaution after it was notified the delivery driver had tested positive following a contactles­s delivery on Monday, September 13.

The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed with Rustik it was not listed as an exposure site.

Ms Brown was told because of the low-risk nature of the incident that the cafe could remain open, however, like other businesses in town, she chose to go over and above to protect her customers and the community, by closing the doors.

“What happened is on Thursday, September 16, we got a call from the company we get our stock from to say that the courier they use had been in touch to say a driver was being tested for COVID-19,” Ms Brown said.

“A few hours later they called back to say the test had come back positive.”

The driver had worked on Monday (September 13), which included delivering to Rustik.

He subsequent­ly phoned in to work to say he was feeling unwell.

He was asked to stay home and get a COVID-19 test. Which he did. He informed his employers immediatel­y of the positive result when it came through.

He is now isolating and the company he works for has been contacting businesses he visited.

Ms Brown confirmed that when the driver was at Rustik it was a contactles­s delivery.

He brought in two loads of goods, then left.

He had no direct interactio­n with staff or customers.

“We asked the company who called what we needed to do and they said to contact DHHS for more advice,” she said.

Ms Brown struggled to get through to DHHS in Melbourne because of the high volume of calls they were receiving.

“I rang Benalla Rural City Council and spoke to Nilesh Singh, who was amazing. He said to leave it with him and he would find out,” she said.

“Following that DHHS in Shepparton got in contact and said we would be classed as a minor risk and they were not very concerned due to the fact it was a contactles­s delivery and all precaution­s were followed.”

Ms Brown was told she could keep the cafe open, however, despite having to turn away business when she needed it most, she made the difficult decision to close until all staff returned a negative test result and they could guarantee the safety of the community.

“This was just us being extra cautious. We were hoping for the best and planning for the worst,” she said.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry. “The last thing we wanted was to stay open, then maybe in a week to get a call and say we were an exposure site.

“We decided to nip this in the bud and let everyone know what was going on.

“We didn’t want to create a panic or worry people.

“But we decided we had to put a post on Facebook to let people know what had happened.”

DHHS was contacted for comment and confirmed that they had no official exposure sites listed in Benalla.

This is still the case as Tuesday, September 21.

Ms Brown said getting the news that all staff were negative was the best moment she has experience­d since the pandemic began.

‘‘It was a massive relief. Waiting on the results was one of the most stressful times we’ve had,” she said.

‘‘In the end we didn’t open on Saturday as we were still waiting on a couple of test results.

‘‘So it was really nice to get the doors back open on Sunday (September 19).”

This is the second scare Benalla has had, with a similar situation last year when a delivery driver stopped at a local business before testing positive.

There was no community transmissi­on that day.

Everyone can play their part in keeping the community safe by wearing masks in public (unless you have a medical exemption), socially distancing from others and maintainin­g good hygiene by regularly washing and sanitising your hands.

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Keep up to date with COVID-19 advice at www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/ victorias-restrictio­n-levels-covid-19

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Joanne and Kristen were happy to be back with their customers at Rustik Cafe and Foodstore
Open again: on Monday. Joanne and Kristen were happy to be back with their customers at Rustik Cafe and Foodstore
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