TAKING precautionary action in response to the potential threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Yarriambiack Shire Council has implemented its contingency plan in order to ensure that council services continue as usual.
Council’s new precautionary measures comes after the Victorian government declared a state of emergency on Monday, with another 29 confirmed cases on Thursday 19, raising the state’s total to 150.
In line with advice provided by the state and federal government, council will either suspend or alter a number of events and services, which will be reviewed weekly, taking precautions to ensure that the community is prepared as the effect’s of the virus continue to spread.
As of this week, council will suspend its child playgroup, Warracknabeal branch library and senior citizen group services, as well as temporarily closing the Warracknabeal Leisure Centre and swimming pools. It will also be limiting its customer service centre to pre-bookings, closing general entries until April 14, as well as its salesyard which too will be closed off to the general public.
Services that will be impacted includes Meals On Wheels, which will continue to operate but is now restricting volunteer staff, and will only work on home visits, closing the centre.
Both Maternal Child Health Services and kindergarten will continue to run normally, although these may be subjected to changes.
Worried about interactions between staff and state government officials, council has also been keeping records of people visiting for government business, as well as asking at risk staff to work from home.
Council will also be increasing its cleaning services of public amenities such as caravan parks, playgrounds, and public toilets, which will receive a disinfectant clean once a day.
Yarriambiack Shire CEO Jessie Holmes said that council is liaising and awaiting further directives from the state government.
“Right now, council is regularly following the advice provided by the state government," she said.
“There will be a local government meeting on Friday 20 between councils in the region and Local Government Victoria.”
Despite the changes to council services to conform to the state’s medical advice, Ms Holmes said that residents should not worry about a shutdown of services.
“We are still confident council can deliver services to the community.”
While council has had to change its staffing arrangements, Mayor Graeme Massey reassured that council will continue on “business as usual”.
“We are making preparations to work out what’s best, but at the moment its business as usual,” he said.
While council services try to continue on as usual, community groups which rely on event fundraising will be hurt by event closures and postponements due to precautionary restrictions.
Further cancellations include the Vintage Machinery Rally, the Easter Art Show, Quambatook Australian Championship Tractor Pull, the Wimmera football and the Warracknabeal bowls leagues.
The economic impacts of the closures on the community, Ms Holmes expects, will be felt over the next 12 months.
“The loss of money from community groups which rely on event fundraising and income for small businesses are going to be felt over the next six to twelve months."
“The economic and social impact on certain sectors will be delayed while for others will be more vulnerable now.
“We need to work with those people who are susceptible, particularly the elderly, to ensure that the impact on them is reduced.”
Other consequences from the coronavirus will be the ability to get contractors in to begin construction on projects approved by Yarriambiack council under the Federal Government’s Drought Community Support Program, something which Ms Holmes expects the Federal Government would be willing to extend.
“I have no doubt that the coronavirus will have an impact on contractors and expectations of project delivery but I don’t think the federal government will be unreasonable about pushing out the completion times.
“We are not the only council that received a grant under the program.”
Under the current arrangements, projects would have to be completed before December 30.