Most residents did not need to be encouraged to show up for testing, and they quickly outgrown available sites – although Goulburn Valley Health expressed concern that a minority of people were still waiting too long. long time.
Days after authorities confirmed the first cases, Shepparton looked like a ghost town as business owners voluntarily closed their doors and drastically reduced the possibility of the virus circulating.
Last week, the number of active cases was reduced to single digits. This is a remarkable and rare worldwide achievement against the Delta variant.
This pandemic has made us repeatedly ask ourselves, what are we prepared to do for each other in the interest of public health?
Many regional communities have answered this question most emphatically, helping to explain why most remain open.
Of course, the regional Victoria has natural advantages. There are more open spaces than Melbourne and the population is more dispersed.
There is less commotion than the capital, which leaves less chance for the virus to spread.
But those factors don’t factor in the Victoria region’s full success in fending off COVID-19.
Mutual obligation to other residents played a crucial role in the response of regional communities that crushed the virus.
In Colac last year, residents overcame a major outbreak after a cluster took root in a lamb slaughterhouse.
Like Shepparton, the community didn’t wait for support and set up a self-imposed lockdown. Residents also organized food deliveries to the isolated and delivered lunches and coffees to exhausted nurses at test stations working grueling shifts.
In November I visited the town of Charlton in Wimmera. As I parked on the main street and adjusted my mask, a woman scowled at me as if to say “don’t even think about letting it slide a millimeter under your nose.” The expectation of the community was clear.
Some regional health services also led the way with a spirit of innovation that emphasized local expertise.
Geelong-based Barwon Health provided the model which was then adopted statewide with a local public health unit that drew on an intimate knowledge of surrounding communities, giving contact tracers the best chance of ‘quell any epidemic.
In Bendigo, which previously led vaccination rates in Australia, the local health department quickly realized that multicultural groups might need additional help and offered vaccinations at a local Buddhist temple to protect the Karen community. .
But regional authorities will soon be faced with another test.
When Victoria opens to 80%, the virus is expected to reach cities that have remained largely untouched by major epidemics.
Shepparton and other regional centers recently recorded a small handful of positive cases, again testing the community’s resolve.
There are troubling pockets of vaccine resistance that will pose a major threat to vulnerable residents. Small rural health services can be quickly overwhelmed by local epidemics.
Community vaccination programs should now be a priority in areas that are not vaccinated quickly enough.
Community spirit and a commitment to following the rules may not be enough to tackle a Delta outbreak, despite the best efforts of locals.
But none of this should overshadow the extraordinary achievements of those who removed the virus and regained their freedom.
Obviously, we can learn a lot from the spirit of regional communities and the willingness of so many to do what is right in the interests of protecting each other.
Benjamin Preiss is Ageregional editor of.