Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor Sam Hearn has asked Greater Melbourne residents to “stay away from the Peninsula” for the next six weeks after his council raised fears that including the region in the COVID-19 lockdown could be putting the community at risk.
Cr Hearn said the council acknowledged the State Government’s lockdown of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire was appropriate and affirmed its commitment to support these measures. However, it expressed concern that given the Mornington Peninsula Shire has been included as a ‘metropolitan’ council, the wider Melbourne community might interpret this as a reason to travel to the Peninsula and inadvertently put community health containment at risk.
Cr Hearn asked whether the better approach to ensuring public health and safety on the Peninsula would be excluding it from the metro area so there couldn’t be travel from the areas with high infection rates. “With only one active case on the entire Peninsula, we encourage everyone throughout Greater Melbourne to do the right thing and stay away from the Peninsula for the next six weeks.”
The council also expressed concern at the Shire being classified as a ‘metropolitan council’ and the dire impact this was having on many Peninsula businesses. With research showing close to 6000 job losses, a 21 per cent fall in gross regional product compared with a 6.9 per cent drop for Australia, and an 11 per cent drop in employment opportunities, a further six-week lockdown had the potential to send many Peninsula businesses to the wall.
“We feel that this is a disproportionate impost on Mornington Peninsula businesses compared to other municipalities such as Geelong,” Cr Hearn said. “In fact, we would welcome a conversation with the State Government about the rationale for our current classification as a metropolitan council when there are a number of compelling reasons to reinstate us as a regional municipality.”
Meanwhile, Cr Hearn said that while reverting back to Stage 3 ‘stay-at-home’ conditions from midnight last night (Wednesday) was “not where we want to be”, he encouraged the community to understand the restrictions and to use their common sense over the coming weeks. “We have been through this before and I’m confident we will band together as a community and get through this. The highest priority is to care for each other by remaining vigilant, continuing to keep 1.5m between yourself and others, and practising good hygiene. Staying the course during this next phase will make sure we all get through this.”
For more information on the lockdown, go to www.mornpen.vic.gov.au/coronavirus