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Cases linked to Colac abattoir outbreak jump: Richard Riordan MP

Regional Victoria’s biggest coronavirus cluster has worsened as authorities establish a control centre in Colac to manage the outbreak.

The number of infections linked to the Australian Lamb Company abattoir in Colac rose to 43 on Friday, compared to 29 the day before.

Cases also grew from 23 to 29 in Geelong, which has regional Victoria’s second-greatest number of infections.

Colac Otway Shire chief executive Peter Brown said an incident control centre was set up on Friday, and includes staff from the Department of Health and Human Services, police, logistics experts and the council.

He said daily meetings would be held with the Australian Lamb Company to prevent the virus from spreading further. The abattoir has been shut and some 700 employees told to self-isolate.

The outbreak resulted in the closure of Trinity College in Colac for a fortnight, while several other Catholic schools were closed earlier in the week.

The council has raised concerns about inadequate options in the town for people living in share houses who are required to isolate.

Support services have been working to find accommodation for some of those people.

Mr Brown said the Australian Lamb Company employed a highly multicultural workforce and many of the workers lived together.

The council was trying to ensure people required to isolate had sufficient and culturally appropriate food so they did not have to leave their homes.

“That’s our big aim over the weekend - to keep people at home,” he said.

Colac Otway Shire mayor Jason Schram said the outbreak was limited to Colac itself and had not spread to other parts of the large municipality, which includes Apollo Bay, Wye River and Birregurra.

He said the control centre would help to convey more timely information to the community.

“They need to get the information out quicker,” Cr Schram said. “It just stops the rumours and that anxiety.”

Some of Victoria’s largest outbreaks have been connected to meatworks. Bertocchi Smallgoods in Thomastown had a total of 57 cases on Friday, compared to 10 the day before.

In South Gippsland there was one additional case, bringing the total to four. Gippsland Health Service chief executive Mark Johnson confirmed one staff member had tested positive but did not disclose where they were based.

He said the employee rang in sick, self-isolated and had not been at work since July 21. The health service is identifying close contacts who will need to be tested and isolate until the results come back negative.

Horsham recorded five cases, an increase of one. Horsham mayor Mark Radford said he was proud of how his community had responded to the pandemic but acknowledged there had been some nasty interactions on social media.“We need to try and avoid that,” he said.

Meanwhile, 14 councils on both sides of the Murray River have flagged concerns about new restrictions imposed by the NSW government.

They said they had been flooded with messages and calls from residents who could not get to work or open their businesses, forcing some to close their doors.

Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie said tighter restrictions introduced this week resulted in many Wodonga residents being locked out of the “border bubble” which allowed them to travel to Albury.

“The narrow border strip system is causing a growing amount of harm to our communities as each day passes, so we’re urging the government to consult with us so we can save our economies while also ensuring we’re all working together to minimise the risk of the virus spreading,” she said.

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