TWO Ballarat residents were in hospital with COVID-19 on Friday from nine active infections and more than 40 exposure sites had been confirmed as the city's Delta toll mounts.
Almost 100 Ballarat Health Services staff, and a further 30 at St John of God Ballarat Hospital, are also in isolation due to potential community exposure to the deadly virus.
With active cases in the region tipped to rise, Ballarat Health Services acting chief executive officer Melanie Robertson reiterated a message for the community to stay calm and show kindness, particularly in facing the week ahead.
BHS is asking that only those who had COVID symptoms or those who had been to an exposure site in the designated time-frame step forward for testing at this stage in a bid to target catching the virus from where it had most likely spread.
Ms Robertson praised the community's response to COVID testing but also called for patience after more than 2000 tests were conducted in Ballarat on Thursday alone. Queues were long on Friday.
The state government swiftly moved to expand pop-up testing capacity, opening a fifth temporary site at Federation University's Mount Helen Campus on Friday afternoon to help meet demand.
Ms Robertson healthcare workers in isolation were also given priority, rapid testing, in a bid to get them back to work, safely, in helping to protect this city.
Watch a replay of last night's online community forum here.
Ms Robertson made clear people could be confident in the partnership between the state government and Ballarat authorities to tackle the outbreak.
"We know what we're doing and we've taken learning from across the state," she said. "If you see what was happening in the background, it's an incredibly efficient and effective machinery that is running 24/7 at the moment to protect our community with everyone absolutely dedicated to that."
Victoria recorded 510 new COVID infections on Friday, including three new in Ballarat, taking the state's total active cases to 4,697.
Grampians Public Health Unit is monitoring 10 cases: nine in Ballarat and one in St Arnaud, which emerged on Thursday. The Courier understands the East Wimmera case presented in a healthcare environment but there were no likely links to Ballarat cases.
Of the Ballarat cases, they are spread across three households. Two households are connected via business links and the third featured the city's mystery case with contact tracers still tracking their acquisition.
Grampians Public Health Unit medical director Rosemary Aldrich said it was concerning to see the fast rise in exposure sites across the region this week. But, it was also not the first time Ballarat had faced exposure.
We are seeing spread - that's why we have made those exposure sites the tiers they are, because we have made people stop in place.Rosemary Aldrich, Grampians Public Health Unit
"Let's not be unrealistic about this. If it is the case there has been spread at these exposure sites then it will declare itself in coming days and there are a lot of exposure sites because we do know at least one or two people who were infectious were infectious without knowing," Associate Professor Aldrich said.
"We are waiting to see what does comes from that, however, we've been here before.
"I know it was not quite as infectious but there were times last year when we did have people in the community for quite some time while they were infectious, not only before they became symptomatic but when they had low-grade symptoms and we all knew what that really meant.
"We are seeing spread - that's why we have made those exposure sites the tiers they are, because we have made people stop in place."
Associate Professor Aldrich said "information was currency" and that was why it was vital people monitor for unfolding exposure sites and follow the tier one and tier two orders: get tested and isolate for 14 days for tier one, or isolate until proven negative for tier two.
Associate Professor Aldrich said Ballarat's strength was in community, how people look after each other, and that while the community could have the greatest confidence in healthcare teams tackling the outbreak, everyone had a role to play to ensure the city could emerge from lockdown in the shortest possible time.
Vaccinations, social distancing and personal hygiene, including masks, were key.
Victoria's COVID response commander Jeroen Weimar on Friday reiterated Geelong, with 13 active cases, was relatively contained compared to Ballarat.
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