COVID-19 Community Update: mandatory face masks for Mitchell, changes to JobKeeper and JobSeeker, update on restrictions and confirmed cases (21 July)

21 July 2020

There have been a number of important COVID-19 announcements this week, including mandatory face masks and remote learning for schools in Mitchell Shire and changes to the federal government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments.
Mitchell Shire and Melbourne residents are now required to wear a face mask or covering when in public.
This new rule won’t be enforced until after 11.59pm on Wednesday 22 July, to give people time to purchase or make a face covering, however if you already have a face mask, you are required to wear it.
The rule also applies to anyone entering Mitchell Shire or Melbourne for one of the permitted reasons. The government has announced that fines of $200 will apply to anyone not wearing a mask. 
It is not mandatory for children under 12 years of age to wear a face covering, however families can make that decision on an individual basis. Children under two years should never wear a face mask due to choking and strangulation risks.
You are not required to wear a mask if you have a medical reason, a professional reason or when it’s just not practical, like when running or exercising, however you are expected to carry a face mask or covering at all times to wear when possible.
For Victorians outside of Mitchell and Melbourne, face masks or coverings are recommended in situations where maintaining 1.5 metres distance is not possible.
Details about the different types of face masks, how to wear them correctly and how to make them can be found here.
Today the Prime Minister and Treasurer announced a number of changes to the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments.
The JobKeeper payment will be extended until 28 March 2021 and JobSeeker will continue with a plan for further review in December this year.
The key changes are:

As of this morning, there are 374 new COVID-19 cases in Victoria, bringing the state’s total active cases to 3,078.
According to the Victorian health department’s epidemiological data, which was updated at 7:22am yesterday, 20 July, there are 13 active cases in Mitchell Shire, two in Greater Shepparton and four in Greater Bendigo. There are no active cases in Strathbogie, Benalla or Campaspe.

There’s still a bit of confusion around restrictions, particularly for those communities near the border of the Mitchell Shire. 
Stage 2 restrictions are still in place in Strathbogie, Benalla, Campaspe, Greater Shepparton, Greater Bendigo and the rest of regional Victoria, while Stage 3 restrictions apply to Mitchell and Melbourne.
Below is a quick summary of some of the key differences, depending on where you live:

Details on the restrictions for each area can be found by following the below links:

Students in Prep to Year 10 at government schools in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire began learning from home this week and will continue to do so until at least 19 August.
Students in Year 11 and 12, special needs students and Year 10 students in VCE or VCAL classes in Mitchell and Melbourne returned to face-to-face learning last Monday, 13 July.
There have been no changes for students attending schools outside of Mitchell and Melbourne, other than the additional temperature checking and cleaning protocols.
Early childhood education and care services can continue to operate, in line with advice from the Victorian Chief Health Officer and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
Eligible not-for-profit sessional kindergarten services in Mitchell Shire will be offered extra funding to enable them to provide free kinder to children during Term 3.
I continue to press the government for a breakdown of the cases across Mitchell Shire by postcode so we can be more informed about where cases are based. 
The government has still not agreed to this request but I will continue to make the case. 

I have asked the Victorian Government to urgently establish a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Mitchell Shire.
I’m concerned families who attempted to get tested at existing locations were turned away because they did not realise they needed to make an appointment.
I note that Kilmore hospital is testing people in their cars, however it is not a drive through clinic where people can just turn up without an appointment to get a test.
Given that Mitchell Shire is included in the Stage 3 restricted area, I believe drive-through testing is necessary. You can read what I have said on this here.
The Victorian Government has established a Business Support Fund for businesses across Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
Businesses in these Stage 3 Stay at Home areas may be eligible for a one-off, $5,000 grant. You can check your eligibility and apply for the grant here.
I do have some concerns about this grant. I don’t believe the $5,000 is enough to help businesses survive a further six weeks of lockdowns and the current eligibility criteria means many small businesses don’t qualify at all. To receive the assistance, businesses need to have employees, be registered for WorkCover and already be on JobKeeper.
That means sole traders are excluded, as is anyone who is not able to access the Federal Government’s main line of support in JobKeeper.

In the last week I’ve spoken to many businesses in Mitchell who find themselves ineligible. 
I’ve asked the Andrews Government to immediately review the guidelines to expand the support available. Read more here.
If you need assistance, my office at 25 Bridge St Benalla, is currently open on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 10am-4pm and via email and phone 5762 1600 Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
We continue to receive a huge number of inquiries and we are grateful for your patience as we work through each of them.

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