THERE is a sense of extra diligence but calm in small communities on the outskirts of Ballarat as active COVID-19 cases start to climb in their shires - despite uncertainty in where cases lie within wide borders.
Active cases are listed according to local government areas by Victorian's health department, which reviews data daily. While Golden Plains and Moorabool shire mayors have called for greater clarity to better assure and inform residents, frontline business owners are finding care more than fear in people safely getting about their lives.
Pub owners in Scarsdale and Smythesdale say, if anything, knowing there were now four active cases in Golden Plains Shire was a reminder for people not to become complacent in the country.
Scarsdale Hotel owner Barry Dawson said most of his customers were loyal locals who would have a fair idea if coronavirus hit their district because everyone tended to know of everyone.
Even so, Mr Dawson said people were particular about social distancing and hygiene.
Scarsdale Hotel and Court House Hotel are open on reduced hours and offering takeaway. While owners would have liked an increase to 50 patrons at a time - as was touted before Melbourne lockdowns - those who did dine in were supportive and were not taking it for granted.
Rokewood Take Away owner Helena Kirby, who is also a Golden Plains Shire councillor, said undoubtedly not knowing for sure each time a new case was declared was playing on everyone's mind.
Travellers to the town had been on the rise since the area was profiled on ABC show Back Roads last month and a viral 'farm fit' video from Rokewood-Corindhap Football Club.
"When people were coming from Melbourne, before the lockdown, they were telling us their postcodes to let us know they weren't from the hotspots at the time," Cr Kirby said.
"Where we're situated in the country, we have different people coming through to go to the Grampians, especially because no-one can go over the border for a holiday now.
"We're a farming community, so we've got farmers moving and workers going by on trucks all the time.
"Everyone's been fantastic at social distancing. Everyone's taking their turn and being patient - but maybe that's a country thing."
Everyone's taking their turn and being patient - but maybe that's a country thing.Helena Kirby, Rokewood Take Away
Cr Kirby said her shop had kept strict regulations without bringing back tables and chairs - anyone wanting to sit down and eat is encouraged to find a bench in park lands or eat in their cars - and she is conscious to undertake constant deeper cleaning.
Similarly in Haddon, Avalon Nursery's David Winters has not relaxed restrictions in the coffee shop or about the centre.
Mr Winters said business was back "through the roof" in a second wave of panic buying as customers, predominantly from Ballarat, stocked up on supplies under threat of regional Victoria going back into lockdown. Bare-root fruit trees are on target to sell out
We are trying our best and doing the best we can.David Winter, Avalon Nursery
"We are trying our best and doing the best we can," Mr Winters said. "We had both our stores, Warrnambool and Haddon, independently assessed to make them as safe as possible. We've got to be cautious, but if we're shut down then we're shut down."
Golden Plains recorded one extra active cases on Thursday, bringing the shire's infected persons to four. The Courier confirmed on Tuesday at least two were Melbourne workers who were tested in the Lucas screening clinic.
Golden Plains Shire stretches to the outskirts of Geelong and takes in 56 communities and 16 towns. The bulk of the shire's population resides in growing towns near Geelong, including Batesford, Inverleigh, Teesdale and Bannockburn - the latter of which one quarter of the shire's residents live.
Moorabool Shire, which takes in southern Ballarat and reaches Bacchus Marsh, has two active COVID-19 cases.
Mark Dunne from The Farmgate shop in Elaine said business had slowed the past week, which he guessed was due to Melbourne lockdowns. The Farmgate Shop, on the Midland Highway, captures travellers between Ballarat and Geelong.
Mr Dunne said there was a general concern about COVID but again, customers had been conscious about restrictions and being patient in his shop.
Moorabool mayor David Edwards said while councils were not the responsible authority for COVID-19 information the reality was the shire was the go-to place for people's concerns.
Cr Edwards said the two new cases in Moorabool this week had stressed people who, while not in lockdown, felt vulnerable in their communities. He said even a general gauge for where cases were situated could help inform people in where they might shop, for example driving into Ballan instead of Bacchus Marsh.
What we don't want to do is lock up places without cases or have at-risk people stuck at home.Moorabool mayor David Edwards
"What we don't want to do is lock up places without cases or have at-risk people stuck at home," Cr Edwards said.
Moorabool Shire takes in 61 towns and hamlets and has communities both with high populations of older persons and commuters to Melbourne. Cr Edwards said a little more information could make a big difference.
Golden Plains mayor Owen Sharkey said the lack of extra detail, especially when new cases emerged, was polarising some communities .
He said even knowing details like the fact two in his shire were Melbourne workers and self-isolating near Ballarat, could give comfort. But he now has three extra cases without details.
Cr Sharkey said what also made cases difficult to gauge was when people, like university students, might be living in Melbourne or another shire but are still registered with their home address in the shire.
"I see our role as council to keep pushing how important it is to have clean hands, staying socially distant," Cr Sharkey said. "...This is such a big beast, no matter where it's coming from."
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