VICTORIA'S response to the COVID-19 virus has moved to a new footing, with a month-long state of emergency declared in the state from midday yesterday.
Events with gatherings of more than 500 people have been cancelled and the response has enabled authorities to enforce the 14-day isolation requirement for anyone entering Australia.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos announced the state of emergency yesterday morning, saying it would assist with measures designed to flatten the infection curve of COVID-19 and give the state's health system the best chance of managing the virus.
Penalties of up to $20,000 will apply to anyone who doesn't comply with the health directions.
As of yesterday morning, there were 314 confirmed cases of the disease in Australia, five of them fatal, with 71 cases, or 23 per cent of cases, occurring in Victoria.
Fifty-one transmissions of COVID-19 were identified as having occurred within Australia on Monday morning, four of them in Victoria.
The Gannawarra Times is unaware of any confirmed cases of the virus in northern Victoria.
While health authorities said the spread of COVID-19 in the community is now inevitable, the aim is to delay the spread by means of good hygiene practices and social distancing so that health services will not be overwhelmed with cases.
Kerang District Health (KDH) on Friday reminded community members not to visit relatives or friends at the hospital or at Gleanarm aged care facility while experiencing respiratory illness or gastroenteritis.
"Our patients/resident and clients are our top priority – make them your top priority too," the service said in a social media post.
"Please adhere to signage at the main entrances of the hospital, the entrance to Glenarm Aged Care and our GP clinics."
Like KDH, Northern District Community Health was referring community members to the Department of Health and Human Services's coronavirus website at dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus and also to emotional support information on the Beyone Blue website: beyondblue.org.au/.
Several large organised events in the region have been postponed or called off following the latest advice and the string of major event cancellations in Victoria that began on Friday with the last-minute axing of the Australian F1 Grand Prix, and included the Melbourne Comedy Festival, the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show, and spectator AFLW and AFL matches.
Among them is the planned anniversary Serpentine Air Race, scheduled for this Saturday, which has been postponed until September 27.
The Pyramid Hill Fiesta, which was to have featured a traditional Filippino shared banquet, has been cancelled, with tickets to be refunded.
Both the Quambatook Tractor Pull and the Kerang Easter Cup race meet look to be in doubt, with meetings due to take place late yesterday where decisions about the events would be made.
The Kerang Rotary Art Show during easter has also been cancelled.
Also affecting Quambatook was the postponement of a planned LGBTQI Pride evening at the Silo Cinema in May.
In Kerang, the Disability and Carers Expo planned for March 27 has been cancelled by the Gannawarra Shire Council.
However, in a statement on Monday the council appealed to residents to remain calm.
The statement sought to remind people that in the majority of cases people who contract the coronavirus will experience mild symptoms and recover quickly.
Gannawarra Shire Council mayor Lorraine Learmonth said that there was no disruption to council services.
"Council has plans in place to minimise any disruption to council services should an outbreak occur and encourages residents to plan but not to panic at this time," Cr Learmonth said.
While the NSW Department of Education announced on Sunday that NSW schools would implement distancing measures, including the cancellation of school assemblies, excursions and inter-school sports, as of 3pm Monday there had been no such policy announcement for Victoria.
In a positive development, Woolworths said yesterday it was introducing temporary measures across its supermarkets to assist vulnerable people obtain groceries.
From today until Friday, Woolworths supermarkets will be open exclusively to the elderly and those with a disability from 7am to 8am.
The company said the move had been prompted by unprecedented demand over the past week, which has seen many vulnerable people missing out on vital items.
Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said the company would reassess the arrangements after Friday.
Ms Peters thanked customers for their patience and encouraged all Australians to be mindful of others in the community.
"Now - more than ever - we need to be kind to each other, especially to those most vulnerable," she said.
To be eligible to shop between 7am and 8am, customers will need to have a relevant government-issued concession card.