A small Victorian town has more than halved its active coronavirus cases in just 10 days using a genius plan to encourage residents to follow the rules.
Colac, which has a population of about 12,000 people, had more than 80 coronavirus cases linked to its Australian Lamb Company abattoir last month, with infections spreading into the wider community.
On August 6, numbers peaked at around 100 but infections have now dropped to just 35 active cases.
Mayor Jason Schram told Yahoo News Australia it was the result of a community campaign to drive the numbers down.
Rather than waiting for the government to give instructions, local community groups enforced its own lockdown well before regional Victoria was thrust into Stage Three restrictions and used everyday people in the community to spread the health messages.
A community-led group called Keep Colac Safe created social media advertisements using the local footy coach, netball star, school captain and doctor to urge people in the town to do the right thing.
“We had your everyday people who people recognise and are respected and trusted within the community,” Cr Schram said.
“The message wasn’t coming from government sources, it was coming from people within the community who people trust.”
Cr Schram said after recording their first new case mid-July, the community rallied together to enact a self-imposed lockdown to get on top of the spread – and he puts the town’s success down to everybody doing the right thing.
“Small regional communities operate so much differently, it’s that sense of community and all chipping in and helping each other out,” he said.
“It’s not a case of everyone knowing everyone’s business, but everyone is in it together and you have to support yourselves out here in these small communities and you rely on each other to help each other out.
“You’ve got people in business, bosses, the footy coach, the local netball star, doctors, nurses and real people in the community telling you we’re in this together, let’s not wait to be told, let’s not worry about politics but do what we can to keep safe.”
Cr Schram said the town had “pretty much nailed” the coronavirus, but said they could not get complacent.
He also believed Melbourne and other metropolitan areas could learn a thing or two from the small town of Colac.
“Just do the right thing. You have to put politics out of it,” he said.
“Nobody wants a disaster or to be in this position, it’s foolish to think somebody does, but things are being done for the right reasons.
“In our community we’ve taken the politics out of it and spread the message what you need to do. We’ve done the hard yards and reaped the benefits.
“If someone is thinking, ‘I don’t want a politician telling me what to do’ and defying the rules, do it because your neighbours are doing it and we’ll get through this together the way it should be.”
On Wednesday, Melbourne confirmed 216 new cases and 12 deaths. It follows 222 infections on Tuesday, 60 less than Monday’s 282 cases, indicating Stage 4 restrictions are now driving numbers down.
Wednesday’s figure is the lowest daily total in 37 days.
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