From hotspots to covid zero – praise for melbourne’s north west suburbs; and lessons to be learnt for outbreaks in the south east

Released on 8th October 2020

Former COVID-hotspots in Melbourne’s north and west have reported zero new cases today (Source: DHHS), an outcome that community health service cohealth has put down to a community-led response, a joint response from multiple community health services, and culturally specific health efforts.

For the first time since March there has not been a single new COVID case in the north and west local government areas of Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Maribyrnong, Melton, Moonee Valley, Moreland and Wyndham.

In early July, 32 suburbs across these LGAs were put into hard lockdown.

“To have gone from 10 hotspot postcodes in lockdown across the north and west to now having zero new cases in all eight LGAs in that region is remarkable,” said Nicole Bartholomeusz, CEO

The success, cohealth says, is due to community health providers’ approach of using community expertise and knowledge, developing tailored health information and providing support to make it possible to comply.

“When cohealth was first faced with the crisis in the north and west, we knew that the best people to lead the response were the communities themselves, and our clinicians based their health response on that understanding,” said Ms Bartholomeusz, CEO.

“Community health  quickly engaged a range of community members to be part of spreading health message in language, distributing masks, helping people recognise symptoms, encouraging tested, and breaking down the stigma attached to the virus,” she said.

“There are important lessons to be learnt from the progress in the north and west. We should all extend our gratitude to the people who early on bore the burden of forced lockdown. Their efforts are now paying dividends,” said Ms Bartholomeusz

“Community Health and local responders are very much at the front line of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jayne Nelson, CEO of IPC Health.

“Community health intervention is a far gentler way to give people what they need, without further trauma and lockdowns.”

“We know the virus is causing high levels of anxiety in the community and that trusted relationships are key to engaging, educating, and supporting people in at risk and vulnerable communities helping them to adapt and adopt safe behaviours and get tested,” said Ms Nelson.

“Our Rapid Response Testing teams are delivering urgent testing, medical care and education to the community at large, easing the burden on hospitals and emergency departments.”

Among the initiatives being implemented in the north and west are:

– cohealth’s bicultural workers are people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities who are employed by cohealth to bridge the information gap with their communities

– A consortium of community health organisations consisting of cohealth, IPC Health, DPV, EACH, Star Health rolling out mobile Rapid Response Testing teams attending factories, schools and abbatoirs

– The COVID+ Pathways program operating from a cohealth control centre in Footscray has been contacting every COVID positive patient in the north and western suburbs to coordinate a personalised self-isolation plan, and refer patients to local hospitals if required.

– Public housing residents have been employed by cohealth as health concierges at each high-rise to share information, and encourage testing

– cohealth last week carried out its 25,000 COVID test since testing commenced from its nine sites operating in Melbourne’s north and west.

Table: Number of Active COVID cases and new COVID cases as at 8 October 2020

LGA Population Active COVID-19 cases New COVID-19 cases
Brimbank 209523 22 0
Hobsons Bay 97751 10 0
Hume 233471 10 0
Maribyrnong 93448 7 0
Melton 164895 17 0
Moonee Valley 130294 17 0
Moreland 185767 8 0
Wyndham 270487 31 0


— Ends —

More information:  Lanie Harris 0418 552 377

More on cohealth: 

cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.  

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