Letter to Kerang shop starts a coronavirus scare

KERANG'S Bus Stop Recycle Shop president Carol Barton was distraught after receiving a letter from someone claiming to have shopped in the store while COVID-19 positive.

The letter arrived by mail on Wednesday.

While Ms Barton believes the letter may be a hoax, she felt compelled to close the shop in the interests of staff and customer safety.

She said her stomach began churning and it was been difficult to know what to do, but reported the matter to Kerang police and the National Coronavirus Helpline.

"I've just felt gutted, I just can't believe it and it's just the worst thing that's ever happened," Ms Barton said.

The typed letter provided no contact details and did not specify the date of the claimed visit, but was processed at the Dandenong Letter Centre on August 25.

Going by the name "Lorna", its writer claimed to be from Melbourne, driving to Swan Hill on an unspecified date, stopping in Kerang on the way back.

The writer claims to have felt unwell shortly after and had a COVID-19 test in Bendigo, with the result coming back positive.

Ms Barton contacted Northern District Community Health (NDCH) on Friday.

"They said we're fairly low risk and we've done everything right," Ms Barton said.

NDCH chief executive Mandy Hutchinson praised the efforts of Ms Barton and other volunteers at the op shop, noting their strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

"Carol's done a great job of keeping a list of people who have been coming into the Bus Stop Recycle Shop and that has been a really useful tool," Ms Hutchinson said.

She said this enabled successful contact tracing.

Strict adherence to staff and visitors wearing masks and regular cleaning were other key factors the op shop managed effectively, she said.

Bus Stop Recycle Shop staff were promptly offered the opportunity to undergo COVID-19 testing on Friday.

"Our role is to support community members when they're feeling vulnerable and it was great we were able to open up the screening and assessment clinic for a bit longer today so that they could get tested," Ms Hutchinson said.

"We're really pleased that we're able to offer that to the community and it's good we've got it locally and that we could respond so quickly."

Community shares and cares

NORTHERN District Community Health chief Mandy Hutchinson says the group has conducted more than 1500 COVID-19 tests, up to 200 a day during the busiest period.

Ms Hutchinson said throughout the pandemic organisations including the Kerang, Cohuna, and Boort hospitals, police and Mallee District Aboriginal Services held fortnightly collaborative meetings.

Ms Hutchinson said everything was being done to ensure the community was well prepared for any COVID-19 challenges.