The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Border community vaccine push



representi­ng Victorian regional councils has called for state and federal government­s to prioritise border communitie­s in the national vaccine rollout.

Rural Councils Victoria, in declaring its commitment to be part of the fight against COVID-19, has called on both higher tiers of government to act swiftly on the call.

Chair Mary-ann Brown said border communitie­s were integrated state borders and could be more vulnerable to COVID-19 when pandemic rules differed in adjoining jurisdicti­ons.

“Rural Councils Victoria is calling on the state and federal government­s to prioritise vaccine rollouts in border communitie­s to help prevent the spread, eliminate the need for rural lockdowns and provide a buffer for metropolit­an areas and regional cities in the event of COVID-19 breaching state borders,” she said.

“We have the local knowledge, the networks and the facilities that are needed to facilitate swift vaccine rollouts.”

Cr Brown said one way the concept could work was that communitie­s along both sides of a border were prioritise­d, followed by communitie­s further north and further east and west from the Victoria-nsw border or the Victoria-south Australia border.

“Of course, we are calling on all Victorians and all Australian­s to get vaccinated as a matter of urgency,” Cr Brown said.

She said tackling the virus in rural Victoria using rules designed for cities was particular­ly challengin­g.

“For instance, the five-kilometre rule doesn’t work for communitie­s in large tracts of the state, where the nearest supermarke­t can be 50 kilometres or more from home,” she said.

Cr Brown said Rural Councils Victoria also urged the State Government to allow small businesses to keep operating, within COVID-SAFE guidelines.

“Rural communitie­s would

“We have the local knowledge, the networks and the facilities that are needed to facilitate swift vaccine rollouts” – Mary-ann Brown

support a nuanced approach to easing restrictio­ns in rural Victoria,” she said.

“Rural people are happy to keep wearing masks, sanitise their hands and keep their distance, so that this would be possible.”

With an expansive virus outbreak underway in NSW, much of Victoria’s state border focus has been on limiting travel between Victoria and NSW.

But rules have also played a heavy toll on communitie­s either side of the Victorian-south Australia border, including Wimmera communitie­s.

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