Colac outbreak prompts calls for info speed-up

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By Luke Voogt

An outbreak at Colac’s Australian Lamb Company abattoir has driven a surge in COVID-19 cases from zero to 26 in just four days in the area.

The Colac Otway Shire last Friday recorded its first two cases since the pandemic began, both from the outbreak, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The shire’s active cases had increased to 27 by midnight on Monday, before the department revised the figure to 26 the next day.

The department has linked 29 cases to the outbreak so far, including cases outside the shire.

Local opposition MP Richard Riordan urged the department to speed up its release of useful information for Colac Otway Shire amid the increase.

“There is no point having all the data sit on a laptop in Melbourne,” the Member for Polwarth said on Monday.

“The Colac community has a right to know how many people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and what the contact-tracing regime will be.”

The department currently provides local government data from the previous day, but Mr Riordan said that was not soon enough amid the outbreak.

“The largest employer and the largest school in our community had positive cases confirmed over 72 hours ago and still no information has been forthcoming,” he said.

“[But] I am confident that with the right departmental support, which has been sadly lacking since the disclosure of a positive case in Colac, we can get through this challenging event.”

A government spokesperson said the department was working closely with Australian Lamb Company, Colac Area Health and Barwon Health to manage the outbreak.

The two health providers and the department were organising testing for all staff and anyone identified as close contacts, the spokesperson said.

“Our newly-established public health team at Barwon Health is playing a key role in this outbreak, helping with case management and contact tracing for the cases in Colac.”

A small number of staff who had not been in contact with any of the current cases and worked in different areas were moving perishable products into cool storage, the spokesperson said.

Confirmed cases in a student from Trinity College Colac and a contractor from Midfields abattoir in Warrnambool are also linked to this outbreak.

The college closed due to the case and had been scheduled to reopen today.

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