A Ballarat pharmacy is urging other businesses to be careful after a hoax phone call terrified staff and customers.
On Friday afternoon, the Sebastopol Chemist Warehouse received a phone call from someone who said they were from Ballarat Base Hospital, telling them someone who had tested positive to COVID-19 had been in the premises.
Staff were told a deep cleaning crew were on their way, and the store was immediately evacuated.
After a short time, staff phoned the hospital to clarify what to do next - they were told the hospital had no record of phoning the pharmacy, or of a positive case attending the store.
Senior pharmacist Rachael Harrison was on duty at the time.
"It was a hoax call - it's an awful thing for someone to do," she said.
"The staff were really upset, we didn't have any positive cases.
"We want to let other businesses know that people are doing this and we'll be following up with police as well."
Police confirmed they had been informed about the incident.
Ms Harrison said some staff had stayed home from work the following day after getting tested to make sure they did not have the virus.
"When we found out it was a hoax, I think they were quite relieved," she said.
"I don't think anyone would have suspected it to be a prank call."
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services strongly condemned the incident.
"We're all working hard to do the right thing, so this kind of behaviour is appalling and completely unacceptable," they said in a statement.
"If any business has concerns about a call or any information provided, they can call the DHHS on 1800 675 398 or request a confirmation email be sent with instructions on how to proceed if there is a positive case detected at their business.
"Calls from people claiming to be from DHHS and making false claims should be referred to Victoria Police."
Ballarat Health Services was also contacted for comment.
The incident comes as another active case was confirmed in Ballarat over the weekend - on Saturday, one more case was added, while an active case was removed.
The cases remained steady on Sunday, with DHHS reporting there have been 24 confirmed so far, with 11 active cases.
Golden Plains currently has five active cases, one fewer than Saturday, while Moorabool Shire has nine active cases.
Victoria's biggest death toll was announced on Sunday, with 10 people - seven men, including one in his 40s, and three women - dying overnight.
Another 459 cases were confirmed across the state, with the majority connected to aged care homes, including seven of the deaths. As of Sunday afternoon, there are now 228 people in hospitals across Victoria, with 42 in intensive care.
It's understood Ballarat's cases include five currently active at the Bill Crawford Lodge and one case at the Jack Lonsdale Lodge.
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Last week the state and federal governments announced support for the aged care sector, including helping to ensure workers would only work at a single facility, and income support for people to isolate while awaiting test results.
The community is reminded that while Ballarat and regional areas are not in stage three restrictions, rules still apply.
People should keep their distance when in public, and if they cannot maintain a 1.5 metre distance, they should wear a mask. Good hand hygiene should also be maintained at all times.
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