If lockdowns are extended, should the state government's ring of steel return to keep regional Victoria free of the virus?
So far there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in regional Victoria, but the continued pace of new infections announced in Melbourne has increased fears of an extended lockdown.
No official announcement on extending the current lockdown past its expected ending of 11.59pm on June 3 has been made.
Last year, the ring of steel - that is, police and defence personnel manning roads at the border between urban and peri-urban shires - was set up in July, to fight a devastating and lethal second wave.
It was brought down in November as restrictions continued to ease.
During that time, fines were increased to almost $5000 for anyone from the city crossing the border without a valid reason, as there were less restrictions in regional Victoria.
While there are only five reasons to leave the house now - care and caregiving; necessary shopping; work and education if one cannot do so from home; exercise within five kilometres of the home; and to get vaccinated - the dual concerns regarding outbreaks in regional Victoria, and how onerous the restrictions are on areas with no infections, have led many to ask why the ring of steel hasn't returned yet.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAVE YOUR SAY BELOW
At Monday's daily press conference, acting Premier James Merlino repeatedly said the situation "may get worse before it gets better", noting several additional positive cases and exposure sites had been added overnight in Melbourne.
However, chief health officer Brett Sutton did not rule out the ring of steel's return, stating "we don't know what's around the corner".
Testing commander Jeroen Weimar confirmed as of Monday morning there were no positive cases in regional Victoria.
Noting this was the case, Committee for Ballarat chief executive Michael Poulton said a more nuanced solution was necessary for regional Victoria if indeed the situation in Melbourne did worsen.
"Regional Victoria has proven to be resistant to the spread so far, a ring of steel hasn't yet been considered because every effort has been going into stopping this outbreak, and it takes significant resources to put one in place - it's easy to say, but not as easy to do," he said.
"We accept a response in a seven-day lockdown as a circuit breaker, but now we're potentially looking at something different, so we have to look at something different to a whole-of-state lockdown, and if the government is now considering extended period of lockdown, it needs to consider regional differences and a nuanced response.
"Hence the ring of steel comes into play, that can effectively restrict movement of people in the state."
He said the state government would have learned from the last ring of steel setup, and this time contact tracers were approaching the situation with an improved QR code system.
Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett also backed calls for regional Victoria to have more restrictions eased if lockdowns continue from Melbourne outbreaks.
"Everyone in regional Victoria feels for Melbourne and Melburnians, but for the economic health of our state, if we have areas of our state that can continue to work and be open, then absolutely we have to do it," she said.
IN THE NEWS
"Having regional Victoria open was effective last time, and whatever needs to be done to allow that to happen must be done, so a large part of our state's economy can continue to operate and keep people employed - and paid, because without JobKeeper assistance our businesses can't keep people on or employ casuals, so then they can't pay the rent or put food in their mouths."
Anyone with symptoms is urged to book a test immediately - phone 4311 1571 or book online, or use the 4Cyte drive-through testing site on Skipton Street.
There's also more information on booking a vaccine appointment online.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.