UPDATE, July 15 at noon
BALLARAT Health Services has confirmed, in accordance with official reporting from the Department of Health and Human Services, there are no known cases of COVID-19 in the City of Ballarat local government area.
Two more confirmed active cases of coronavirus in the Golden Plains Shire, were confirmed by The Courier on Tuesday to have been tested at the Lucas fever clinic.
The total for the municipality, which borders Ballarat council, currently stands at three active cases.
BHS issued in a statement to media, in which it said it was now aware of one of these cases. However they said the individual with COVID-19 has not needed to come to hospital and is being cared for at home.
THE CITY's need to test at-risk people who do not show symptoms has again been put into the spotlight with at least two new, active cases in the region - the first near Ballarat after two months without an infection.
Ballarat Health Services acute operations director Ben Kelly moved to reassure the region new cases were to be expected but this also reinforced how essential it was for people to maintain social distancing and good hygiene.
Mr Kelly said asymptomatic testing had its time in Ballarat, during the state's May testing blitz, but was not a focus for Ballarat or the wider region by the Victorian health department at the moment. The department directive is for testing people who show even the mildest cold and flu-like symptoms. Mr Kelly said restricted movement in and out of Melbourne was also a vital prevention factor for regional Victoria.
UFS chief executive officer Lynne McLennan said there were still major gaps in the system, particularly with a backlog for the health department to notify high-risk people by letter about contact tracing.
The Courier understands two infected persons live in the Ballarat region but work in Melbourne where they each contracted the virus from known sources.
Both are believed to have been tested with symptoms in Lucas and are recorded with addresses in Golden Plains Shire, bringing that local government area's total to four cases, with three active.
Both cases were notified on Monday and counted in Victorian health department data released on Tuesday. It is unclear where the third case resides in a shire stretching from Ballarat to Geelong.
Mr Kelly confirmed BHS was not treating any patients with COVID-19.
While Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are in lockdown, people are still able to commute between these areas and the rest of regional Victoria for work and study.
Australian Medical Association Victoria president Julian Rait told The Courier on Monday greater access to testing, for people with and without symptoms, was urgently needed to better protect the Ballarat region.
Mr Rait also called for breathalyser-style screening for people passing check-points into regional Victoria, like on the Western Freeway near Bacchus Marsh or in a service centre.
The only place for free public COVID-19 testing in the region is at the UFS-led respiratory clinic at Lucas Community Hub. This including catering to people as far as Ballan.
Ms McLennan said the clinic was only funded for testing people with symptoms unless a person had a letter from the health department identifying them as an urgent test case.
She was concerned the pressure on the department in contacting people potentially exposed to the virus meant there was likely an increased chance people who had the virus, but showed no symptoms, were walking about freely in the community until otherwise notified.
Anyone with event the mildest cold and flu-like symptoms is urged to self-isolate until they are tested and have received a negative result.
Mr Kelly said BHS was working on plans with Ballarat Community Health to open a second testing facility so people with any symptoms were tested sooner.
Mr Kelly made clear BHS was prepared for any new positive COVID-19 cases in the community and the health service had effectively managed positive cases already in this pandemic.
He said it was crucial the community continue to adhere to restrictions and health advice to ensure any potential new cases did not lead to transmission numbers that could overwhelm the health service.
COVID-19 cases for people in City of Ballarat has flatlined on 11 while new cases have emerged in other regional centres, including Geelong (six active cases), Bendigo (four) and Warrnambool (one).
Golden Plains Shire takes in part of Smythesdale and Haddon, Linton, Ross Creek and Rokewood.
The Shire also covers Meredith, Shelford, Teesdale and booming communities Inverleigh and Bannockburn on the outskirts of Geelong.
Bannockburn is the shire's main hub, where about one-quarter of the population lives, according to the latest Census data. The shire features 56 communities and 16 townships but about half the shire's whole population lives in major towns closer to Geelong: Bannockburn, Inverleigh, Batesford, Lethbridge and Teesdale.
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.