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Covid Victoria: Ballarat plunged back into lockdown as Covid cases surge in regional community 

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A regional Victorian town has been shut down for seven days after recording four new Covid cases as the state’s top doctors warn infections are expected to increase.

Prime Minister Dan Andrews has announced that residents of Ballarat will be subject to the same restrictions as Melbourne from 11:59pm on Wednesday, except for curfews, as the state’s Delta outbreak expands into the Central Highlands.

“It’s not the news Ballarat wants to hear or the decision we have to make,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

‘[But] If we let the virus escape into any part of regional Victoria, it becomes a threat and a risk to all of regional Victoria. We can’t let that happen.’

Dan Andrews has announced that Ballarat will be shut down for seven days from midnight Wednesday after the city registered four new Covid cases

Meanwhile, Shepparton will come out of lockdown, with his restrictions to mirror the rest of the regions from midnight Wednesday after a local outbreak was brought under control.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the Ballarat decision was made after Covid sewer monitoring indicated the virus may have been circulating in the community for nearly a week.

“From the eighth we’ve had positive wastewater detections, which can sometimes mean someone coming by, someone who has recovered,” he said.

“But then when you identified confirmed cases, you think those wastewater detections involved someone who was positive and contagious in the community and went undetected.

“So it’s been over a week of probable transmission within the Ballarat community. So there will probably be more cases and therefore an immediate lockdown is really the right response.’

Residents of Ballarat will be required to abide by the orders to stay at home with only five reasons to leave the house, home visitors will be banned and there will be a three-mile travel limit.

Victoria registered 423 new coronavirus cases and two deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases in the state to 4,038.

The health department confirmed on Wednesday that 149 cases were linked to known outbreaks, and the source of the remaining 274 is under investigation.

The dead include a man in his 40s from the Whittlesey area and a second man in his 70s from Wyndham, taking the state’s current outbreak toll at eight.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said authorities have made the decision to shut down Ballarat (pictured) over fears that Covid-19 has been circulating undetected in the community for the past week

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said authorities have made the decision to shut down Ballarat (pictured) over fears that Covid-19 has been circulating undetected in the community for the past week

In the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, 54,649 tests were processed and 41,856 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub.

Meanwhile, St Vincent’s Health Australia has announced a mandatory vaccination policy for all its health and aged care facilities, including St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne.

The healthcare provider operates 16 public and private hospitals and 23 aged care facilities in Victoria, NSW and Queensland and requires “all staff, volunteers and contractors” to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Unions, top agencies and workers will be consulted on the policy in the coming weeks to set a date for it to take effect, said Toby Hall, chief executive of the St Vincent’s Health Australia Group.

He said more than 70 percent of people across the organization are already fully vaccinated.

On the other hand, Shepparton (pictured) will exit lockdown from 11:59pm on Wednesday after a local Covid outbreak was brought under control

On the other hand, Shepparton (pictured) will exit lockdown from 11:59pm on Wednesday after a local Covid outbreak was brought under control

“We see it as an additional and logical step in the process of keeping our sites as safe as possible as Australia learns to live with COVID-19 in the long run,” said Mr Hall.

It’s because Victorians may be given more freedoms from Friday, with an extra hour of exercise and an expanded travel limit on the table once 70 percent of those eligible have received their first COVID-19 dose.

Andrews has confirmed that the state’s roadmap to get out of lockdown will be released on Sunday.

The roadmap, which outlines the restrictions through November, will be based on the Burnet Institute’s modeling of vaccination and hospitalization rates.

Opposition leader Matthew Guy, however, has criticized the government for “leading the community on for another week.”

He called for an immediate end to the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, outdoor family gatherings and the return of grade 11 and 12 students before the start of semester four.

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