Hotspot label sidelines holiday plans

COVID-19 testing at Melbourne Showgrounds. Photo by Damjan Janevski. 210340_08

By Jessica Micallef

Hume residents are being urged to rethink their interstate travel plans after the municipality was labelled a “hotspot” for coronavirus infections.

The move has prompted councillors to seek “urgent clarification” from the Department of Health and Human Services on the suburbs within Hume that have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases.

As of Sunday, there were 33 active cases of coronavirus in Hume.

Sunbury’s Mel James booked a one week getaway to a caravan park in Moama, New South Wales, for the school holidays with her sister’s family on June 20 but she was forced to cancel the trip two days later after being told the site would not accept residents living in hotspot areas of Melbourne, including Hume.

“I got a phone call from the caravan park saying ‘because I live in Hume, I cannot attend for the school holidays,’” she said.

“But my sister lives in Romsey and she can go.”

“Just because I live in Hume, I now cannot take the kids anywhere, but my sister who lives 20 minutes up the road can, which doesn’t make sense.”

Ms James said Sunbury residents needed to be provided with more clarification on what living under a municipality labelled a hotspot meant. “They are talking about if things get worse they are going to lock us down,” she said.

“So does that mean my husband can’t leave Hume to go to work because he works in the city?”

The Foreshore Caravan Park, which has three sites at Torquay, Anglesea and Lorne, was last week cancelling bookings of guests from the six Melbourne council areas labelled a hotspot.

However the company changed its stance after community backlash.

Last week, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian called on her state’s organisations to not “interact” with Melbourne citizens.

She said NSW holiday accommodation sites were at their own “liberty” to accept or reject any traveller, however she “strongly endorsed’’ Victorian state government advice for people living in hotspots to not travel interstate, despite the border between Victoria and New South Wales remaining open.

“People living in those hotspots should not travel around,” she said.

“The health experts in Victoria themselves have said to all their citizens not to travel interstate especially if you are from those hotspot communities and that is the message we endorse.

“We do issue that travel warning and recommend people not to travel to those hotspots that have been identified and certainly reconsider travel to Melbourne at this point in time.”

There is also a growing concern among councillors that Sunbury is being included as a suburb associated as a hotspot.

At last Monday’s council meeting, councillors voted to write to Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton to seek “urgent clarification” on the suburbs within Hume that have seen a spike in cases.

Cr Ann Potter said identifying hotspots by local government area did not make sense in an area as large as Hume, which covers more than 500 square kilometres.

“While I’m expecting it was not their intent, by categorising Hume as a hotspot, they have provided even greater uncertainty to our residents,” she said.

“Providing a breakdown by suburb provides greater clarity.”

Cr Potter said the council supported the health advice and measures taken by the state government, and would support increased local restrictions if necessary.

“We also urge our community to follow all advice to prevent the need for further measures as we all need to play our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” she said