COVID-19 response – Advocate Update: May 25, 2020

Over the weekend further easing of restrictions has been announced. The continued commitment of people in Victoria to flattening the curve has enabled the government to apply a new set of rules from June 1st.

Last week I heard from people across Latrobe about how they were attempting to stay connected with family and friends. Technology, or the lack of it, is impacting their lives significantly.

I continue to update the Victorian Minister for Health and the Victorian Chief Health Officer about how COVID-19 is impacting Latrobe communities and again I want to thank you for sharing with me your experiences and suggestions as we move forward together.

What am I hearing.

The way we use technology has changed. Geographical barriers are disappearing, there is no “base” or H.Q.” anymore and people are able to access national events from their loungeroom. People are joining meetings remotely and some people in regional communities are finding that virtual work offers them a more equal playing field. However, access to technology is not consistent across the board and issues around equity of access to technology need to be addressed if Latrobe communities are not going to be left behind.

While those with access to technology have been able to use it to stay connected with family and friends, people are missing the incidental opportunities to network and build relationships with their friends and colleagues. The chat that happened while making a morning cuppa is missing in the virtual communication that is taking place across workplaces, conferences and events.

People are sharing that there is a necessary lag between official announcements and their local implementation. I am hearing that there is a requirement for negotiation to enable the implementation and health professionals and communities need time to understand the changes to the system and how they will affect them.

COVID-19 has taught us that human health is the most important thing and it is now seen as a significant focus for businesses. There is no resistance to this idea, but some small businesses are cash strapped and unwilling or unable to spend money. This limits their ability to adapt to technology and evolving physical distancing measures.

People in industry are expressing concern that businesses and displaced employees may lack the confidence to re-open. There is also concern that as restrictions ease people may be too scared to visit local shops and cafes. This may have implications for peoples’ mental health and place additional strain on an already struggling system.

For many, this time away from work and other commitments has been a time to stop and reflect but for others they’ve been busier than ever, and they are “waiting for things to slow down.”

Innovations I am seeing.

Discussions around health and wellbeing are becoming increasingly prominent. There is a realisation that without healthy communities, there cannot be a healthy economy. Health is now seen as everyone’s business.

Technology has led the way in supporting businesses across all sectors of the economy and there has been a positive acknowledgement that in order to fully embrace its benefits investment will be required to boost local capacity and to address equity issues.

There is increasing interest amongst industry, government and health services to learn what enables change and innovation to occur. COVID-19 has created a sense of urgency which has accelerated changes to the system. Questions are now being asked about how innovations can be maintained and what else can enable change to occur.

I am sharing what I am hearing.

I am continuing to share my insights and suggestions with the Victorian Minister for Health and the Chief Health Officer and in my most recent update I have highlighted my interest in the following;

• What is it that has enabled some community and volunteer groups to stay connected and maintain momentum? How can this inform recovery efforts and the ways governments and services resource and support volunteers into the future?

• As restrictions ease and the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 become more evident across Victoria, how can we apply a rural or local lens over recovery efforts and the design of government policies? How can recovery efforts be accelerated in Latrobe or Gippsland and how will this benefit the rest of Victoria?

• What will it take to rebuild confidence in local economies and small businesses? How can businesses be supported to invest locally and to adapt to ongoing physical distancing requirements?

• COVID-19 has created and accelerated the conditions for change. What else will help change to occur and what can we learn from the COVID-19 experience?

I’m here to listen and to help our health system and governments to understand and respond to the needs of communities in Latrobe. The continued generosity of people in sharing their stories with me has given me the opportunity to provide advice that reflects what is happening across Victoria.

Please continue to share your suggestions and experiences with me by contacting me on 1800 319 255, email or follow us on Facebook @LHAdvocate and Twitter. For more information you can go to our website

As always, be kind, be patient and stay safe.