Stawell Regional Health's chief executive Kate Pryde has a clear message to her community after several positive COVID-19 cases across regional Victoria.
Sixty-seven new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed on Sunday - bringing the total number of cases in Victoria to 296.
"Our community needs to listen to the advice and the advice is we need to act like it's already here now," she said.
"I know there are some people out there who are waiting for a confirmed case in the region to change their behaviour.
"The fact is, with the current swabbing criteria, that is constantly changing and quite strict, we can't rely on it to identify our first case.
"There can be a 7-14 day lag in receiving swab results as well. It would not be unreasonable to assume it's already here."
READ MORE: First coronavirus case confirmed in Wimmera
Ms Pryde said residents "should not panic" and remember at the end of the day it's a "flu-like" virus but highly contagious and a virulent strain.
"Leaders in Stawell are doing everything they can to keep the impact as low as possible in the community," she said.
"That is why I am pleading to the community to follow the guidelines of social distancing, hygiene including hand washing and where possible limiting the amount of time spent out in the community.
"The goalposts are forever changing and it is easy to get lost in all the medical terminology.
"If there is one message to get through is everyone needs to do their bit for the community."
Ms Pryde said for the virus to spread, extended close personal contact was most likely required.
"Close personal contact is at least 15 minutes face-to-face or more than two hours in the same room," she said.
The federal and state government have introduced guidelines around non-essential gatherings and compulsory isolation for those who have traveled from overseas.
"If you have been recommended at home isolation, from either a health professional, because you have traveled or voluntarily, it means staying at home for the full 14 days.
"This means no outside of house travelling, shopping, meeting up with friends and family and the like.
"While this is difficult, there are some great initiatives across our region and services in place to best support people if they are at home.
"While you might be physically isolated in your home, people need to know they aren't socially isolated and to pick up the phone or go online to seek services and assistance. The community is here to help in any way it can."
Ms Pryde said she wanted to acknowledge thank those within the community who were following the guidelines.
"My personal thanks goes to them and I know thanks come from my staff as well," she said.
"It's going to take a whole of community approach 'squash' the curve and I know our community is up for the challenge."
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