• Loddon Herald

20 months still in making


THERE were lots of “indications” on Sunday of how Victorians will be able to live life when the state achieves COVID vaccination targets.

The Premier’s much-anticipated roadmap announcement provided little clarity for long-suffering people in regional areas mostly or entirely free of the worst health consequences of this pandemic that has severely limited community interaction, something that is intrinsically part of life in rural towns and districts.

There was a glimmer of greater hope for cocooned Melburnians who now have the dubious record of being the longest locked-down city in the world but can enjoy a few freedoms ... soon.

And while the indications of changes may stimulate some optimism in planning life before the current or next lockdown (the fragility of of COVID management in Victoria can be no better highlighted than the rapid snap lockdowns imposed on Ballarat, Geelong and Seymour in recent days and exposures within close hale of Loddon communities), there are still a lot of coulds, maybes and possibles attached to the roadmap of wha seems a never-ending journey.

For our Loddon communities, there are also many questions that must be answered as we reach new milestones in vaccination. The milestones taking on im-portance of a higher plane.

The “Groundhog Day” existence of 2021 has seen many families again kept apart and much-loved community events cancelled, postponed or moved in reduced form to an online environment.

These events are the glue that binds our people and our communities. Loddon Shire Council has already recognised that for events to be held (if they can be held), extra layers of compliance and complexity will be imposed on community volunteers by government. The COVID compliance financial assistance available to local events is a huge step in supporting any plans to have communities together.

That assistance follows the rollout started almost a year ago of outdoor dining furniture for cafes and hotels, our local businesses now “deputised” by the State Government to check the bona fides of customers - where they live, have they checked in with the QR code and very shortly, to have customers give proof of double vaccination. People didn’t go into the business to be law enforcers. They are rolling with it at this stage for the simple reason that they want to open, earn a living and keep people connected.

Using accepted emergency management structure, we’ve so far seen the first two Rs of reaction and response to the pandemic.

But the real determinant for local communities to emerge from almost two years of a very different life will be how government state and federal approach the next two Rs - recovery and rebuild.

COVID-19 has given a whack to society and our economy far greater than the Spanish Influenza 100 years ago.

Why? Well back then, people worked where they lived. Back then, too, it was a rarity for people to be working multiple part-time jobs. It was a less transitory lifestyle, mobility was mostly limited by train services and how far you could travel by horse and cart in a few hours.

Fast forward to effectively 2022 and the weekend roadmap release will need to become more than six dot points in panels leading to the reconnection of regional and metropolitan Melbourne indicatively on November 5 when 80 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over are double vaxxed.

Augmented plans, when the Premier is able to take country Victorians into his confidence, will need to include details on how outdoor community sport and local events in country towns can be held and government support to assist in re-charging regional celebrations that are driven not by big event companies but dedicated and passionate volunteers.

And being a region with a large number of older residents, let’s hope that those unable to be vaccinated are still embraced and included once detail is forthcoming on who can enjoy the “benefits” of dining out and attending events. For at the moment, missing detail leaves too much to the imagination and that is not healthy.

The narrative of government has changed over the last 12 months from one of managing to living with the virus. The messages have been clear in recent weeks, vaccination is crucial to again living a normal life. Our residents want that, so we’ll #rolluploddon and have the jab.

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