Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and health chiefs have issued a blunt warning: stay home to help stop the spread of coronavirus or more people will die.
With the state's confirmed case tally rising a further 55 people on Wednesday to 466 confirmed cases, including five in Ballarat, Mr Andrews made an impassioned plea for Victorians to stay home to buy time so the health system is ready.
"Seeing queues outside Centrelink is heartbreaking. What we don't want is queues for people who need a machine to help them breathe. We cannot have people queueing for ICU beds, that will mean they will die.
"We've got to buy time and that means everybody doing the right thing, playing their part. If they can stay home, they must stay home.
"Victorians need to step up, follow the advice, do the right thing or people will die. These are painful and difficult steps but it is exactly what is necessary to slow the spread of this virus."
Ballarat Health Services executive director of acute operations Ben Kelly said he expected the community to heed the premier's call.
"That's what we are expecting the community to do where possible ... and we appreciate their support on it," Mr Kelly said.
"The clear message from us is to maintain really strong hand hygiene and to strengthen the message around social distancing and staying at home, as per the premier's advice, wherever possible.
"We still need to provide care to the normal demand we have, which is why collaborating with the community is so important. If we have a significant influx of COVID-19 respiratory type presentations we've got to juggle that and we don't want to be in a position to have to make that choice between those who receive care and those who don't."
Mr Kelly said there had been a significant increase in the number of patients being tested at its COVID-19 screening clinic over the past week.
"We've also seen a small reduction in emergency department presentations as people are aware that the hospital is under pressure and looking to minimise traffic. Having said that, if people need the hospital it's here for them."
Mr Kelly said where appropriate, the hospital would try to look after as many COVID-19 patients as possible in their own homes under self isolation.
"It is our policy for clinicians to support patients who are well enough to be able to go to their own environment in self isolation. We will be looking to that as our front line but it will not be appropriate for everyone."
"We are very much looking to minimise any through traffic through the hospital," he said.
All non-urgent outpatient services have been suspended to avoid people congregating in waiting rooms, and where possible urgent outpatient services will be completed by telehealth to minimise face-to-face contact.
Committee for Ballarat chairman and surgeon Dr David Deutscher said people should only go out if necessary, and if you do need care you should phone ahead.
"About one in seven cases are asymptomatic, maybe more, and so if you're asymptomatic and can be spreading - the average spread is two or three people you'll infect - you might not know it, and that exponentially increases the number of people that are going to get infected," he said.
"That's why the government and medical profession is saying stay at home while you can."
Dr Deutcher said it was important not just to minimise the spread, but to protect health care workers on the front-line of the pandemic.
"We want to protect our healthcare workers, that's from receptionists to cleaners to people who run air conditioning and heating systems, as well as doctors, nurses, surgeons, and techs," he said.
"It's estimated 20 per cent of our healthcare workers could be infected if numbers continue to escalate, and that's if we don't flatten the curve.
"If we don't go out, and we socially distance, the chance of getting them infected is less. They may be the workers that will look after you if and when you get sick."
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