COVID-19 reaches fever pitch

AS the global response to COVID-19 reaches fever pitch, Swan Hill residents are starting to speak up.

With the spectre of the novel coronavirus and potential economic downturn on the front page of every news outlet, local businesses and their employees have shared their own fears and exasperations.

A Swan Hill primary school teacher, who did not wish to be named, was among those who raised concerns around communication.

"We (the staff) talk about it every day. But no, none of the administrators have told us what's going to happen if, God forbid, one of us gets it. It's all a bit creepy," they said.

When a local Australia Post employee was asked about any memos or changes to AusPost's policies and procedures in the wake of the global pandemic he responded:

"None of the bosses have even mentioned it. We get breaks to wash our hands but other than that…nothing."

Mackillop College was the first local school to address COVID-19 on their Facebook page with a post on Wednesday urging staff and students to stay home if they are feeling unwell. It also detailed recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on hand washing and self-isolation.

For both local front-line medical staff and supermarket employees, the disconnect between upper management and the water cooler couldn't be more apparent.

"We haven't even war-gamed this scenario," a local nurse said.

"The moment some people start getting a runny-nose, they expect to be tested for coronavirus. I don't know what the government has planned but we just don't have those facilities here.'

Responding to concerns yesterday, Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said the state was working to establish what have been dubbed 'coronavirus clinics' across the state.

'"We have established 12 screening and assessment clinics across Melbourne and regional Victoria to get as many people tested as possible - and our world class hospitals stand ready to establish more as required," she said.

"We're working closely with the Commonwealth Government to ensure GPs are also supported in providing advice and screening to potential COVID-19 patients."

So far, no commitment has been made to provide a testing facility for the Swan Hill district.

The only regional Victorian centres announced so far are in Albury-Wodonga, Barwon and Bass Coast.

In response to their decision to open the discussion on COVID-19 with her staff, students and families, Mackillop College Principal Michelle Haeusler said:

"Knowledge is power. If we're going to overcome our fears and anxieties over this issue, we all need to be on the same page, supporting each other."