PEOPLE refusing COVID-19 tests in Melbourne hotspots can indirectly affect behaviour in regional Victoria, a leading psychology expert warns.
Just as seeing a crowded shopping centre or lack of protection or social distancing could give a sense of accepted behaviour, so too could a refusal for virus screenings.
Victorian health authorities found more than 9,000 people refused door-to-door testing for COVID-19 in Melbourne's high-risk suburbs last week. The state has recorded consecutive days of new case highs with 191 new cases on Tuesday after 127 on Monday with 772 known active cases across the state.
Testing in Ballarat, like across the state, is voluntary but strongly advised for anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms, which were also potential signs for coronavirus. The state government has been working to step up testing in hotspot areas in a bid to better gauge the virus' spread.
Victoria University senior psychology lecturer Glen Hosking said refusing a test could be for a number of reasons but generally came down to two main factors. And the more who refused, the more common refusal could become.
"It could be motivated avoidance or anxiety someone tested could be positive or be bad news, like not being able to work. Refusing can be a way to manage anxiety over what's going on," Dr Hosking said. "The other is an attitude this will not affect them or will just go away, that it's not required as necessary.
"That's one thing that's manifested in a lack of social distancing and a person who is going out a lot, going against the rules.
"A lot of this stuff is modelled behaviour. Human behaviour is copying what we see in others and we're seeing examples of this much more in the community.
"When restrictions were first in there was certainly a much stronger pull towards keeping doing the right thing and following them."
Human behaviour is copying what we see in others and we're seeing examples of this much more in the community.Dr Glen Hosking, Victoria University senior psychology lecturer
Dr Hosking said the risk in talking about coroanvirus hotspots was people outside, like regional Victorians, could start to feel immune.
He said how much Ballarat people were impacted by tightened restrictions on Melbourne suburbs and the hard lockdowns on housing towers in Footscray and North Melbourne was dependent on ownership.
If Melbourne, and the need to visit Melbourne, felt unimportant right now then a person was less likely to be bothered than someone who might need to work in Melbourne or have family in Melbourne.
"If a person identifies with that you will see a decrease in mood and increase in levels of anxiety," Dr Hosking said.
While the threat of further lockdowns in Ballarat might seem daunting or frustrating, Dr Hosking said there was one big positive factor worth noting.
"As human beings we are pretty resilient," Dr Hosking said. "We can adapt and adjust - even people who don't think they have the capacity to go back to social distancing and limited interaction."
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Tuesday it was more important than ever for all Victorians, particularly those in restricted postcodes, to follow health directions.
Professor Sutton said the virus was not selective, it would impact anyone it encounters, and there was no excuse for those in high-risk neighbourhoods to refuse testing.
Ballarat has flatlined on 11 COVID-19 cases, with no active cases since mid-May. Ballarat Health Services acute operations director Ben Kelly has made clear social distancing was "our best defence".
Moorabool mayor David Edwards urged anyone in his shire, staying or coming and going, to stick to social distancing and good hygiene. Cr Edwards said the shire could not afford complacency.
Moorabool Shire, which takes in the region south of Ballarat, has only had three COVID-19 cases and has no active cases but neighbours like Wyndham, Melton and Brimbank in Melbourne's outer west have recorded soaring new cases the past fortnight.
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