High-risk businesses targeted

New findings show more than 80% of Australians are worried about hygiene on public transport, as Victoria gears up for increased testing

Victoria’s state Government has announced it will establish a new rapid response team to prevent, respond to and limit outbreaks as part of a major coronavirus surveillance boost.

Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos announced $20 million for a range of measures that will continue beyond the recent testing blitz, which has seen 161,000 Victorians tested over the past two weeks.

Testing will continue for Victorians with even the mildest of symptoms over the next month, with a target of a further 50,000 tests to be conducted over the next week, and 150,000 tests by the end of May.

“As we ease restrictions, there will be further positive coronavirus cases, and possible outbreaks,” the state Government said.

“To limit these cases and keep Victorians safe, the Government has outlined its plan for a new ‘outbreak unit’ within the Department of Health and Human Services’ public health team.

“The unit will include new rapid response outbreak squads, staffed by public health specialists and clinicians to ensure appropriate testing, contact tracing and deep cleaning is carried out as soon as a cluster is identified.

“The squads will also make proactive visits to high risk facilities, businesses and industries, and work with local services on infection control and prevention, while also stepping in to quickly manage any high-risk cases should they occur.

“In addition to the new rapid response squads, mobile testing units will continue to operate and will be quickly deployed to communities that show a spike in cases – to help stop the virus spreading further.

“Five metropolitan and three regional pop up testing sites established during the testing blitz at local shopping centres and community locations will continue, as health authorities continue to analyse the data already generated.”

Meanwhile preliminary findings of a University of Sydney survey on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Australians’ travel activities suggest over 80 percent of respondents are concerned about hygiene on public transport.

Researchers from the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney Business School surveyed a sample of 1,073 Australians in the first two weeks of April this year, to provide the first disaggregated data on household travel and activities across Australia during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has created disruption to travel and activities unlike anything we’ve seen since World War II,” said Professor David Hensher, Director of ITLS and one of two authors of the research.

“Our survey reflects people’s trust in both state and federal governments and general compliance with travel restrictions across the community,” said Associate Professor Matthew Beck, co-author of the study.

“This level of trust and community spirit needs to continue as governments look to ease restrictions.”

Among the key preliminary findings are that average weekly household trips reduced by more than 50% due to COVID-19; and that commuting trips dropped the most, from an average of seven down to three a week. Food shopping accounted for 29% of trips per week in April, up from 17% in March.

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