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Shepparton coronavirus testing facilities overwhelmed but officials promise more capacity will be available soon

Health officials apologise and say more resources are being rushed to Shepparton to try and get on top of a coronavirus outbreak linked to the Chadstone Shopping Centre cluster.

People have already been turned away from a COVID-19 testing site in Shepparton, in northern Victoria, where three cases of COVID-19 have been identified this week.

Key points:
  • Three positive cases in the northern Victorian city have prompted hundreds to try to get tested
  • Jeroen Weimar apologised for delays and said more testing resources would be in place as soon as possible
  • Local residents are bitterly disappointed at the outbreak saying just one "intruder" has caused havoc

Greater Shepparton Council is telling people not to attend the pop-up clinic at the Shepparton Showgrounds, as it has already reached capacity for the day.

Health officials have been overwhelmed by the demand for testing in the city, after residents were urged to get tested if they had coronavirus symptoms.

The council is asking people to go to a new drive-through clinic at the city's sports precinct or to Goulburn Valley Health's Acute Respiratory Clinic, in Graham Street.

Jeroen Weimar, the commander of COVID-19 testing in the Department of Health and Human Services, apologised to residents who were also turned away yesterday.

Some of them had been queuing for hours in hot, sunny conditions.

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said there would be more capacity for testing today, with another drive-through site being set up at the Shepparton Sports Precinct.

"I'd love to thank everybody who came forward in Shepparton to get tested," he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

"My huge thanks, and I know it was a long wait in the sun, and for others, they may not be able to get tested today.

"I do apologise. We're working as fast as we can."

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Shepparton residents say they were turned away at COVID-19 testing sites due to overwhelming queue.

Shepparton man Andrew Garner was the first to be tested in Shepparton this morning, and said he'd been waiting in line since before sunrise.

"I got here about 10:30 yesterday [morning] and waited for about five-and-a-half hours in the heat only to be turned away," he said.

"I am normally a shift worker so I got up early and thought I'd get here first thing and get it done as soon as they open up."

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Nine Australian Defence Force (ADF) officers and the Ballarat Rapid Response Team are being brought in to assist with the testing and there will be extended hours at the GP Respiratory Clinic as well.

Goulburn Valley Health's chief executive officer Matt Sharp said testing teams that were in Kilmore after an outbreak at a local cafe were returning to Shepparton to boost capacity.

"We've also called in additional support from our neighbouring health services as far away as Wangaratta to come and help support that testing uplift," he said.

Mr Weimar is urging anyone who went to any of the locations visited by the Melbourne man, who was unknowingly infected, to get tested.

A photo of people lining up to be tested for coronavirus in Shepparton on October 15, 2020.A photo of people lining up to be tested for coronavirus in Shepparton on October 15, 2020.
The COVID-19 pop-up testing site at the Shepparton Showgrounds reached capacity early on Thursday morning.(ABC News: Jackson Peck)
High-risk locations in Shepparton:
  • Central Tyre Service, Welsford Street, Shepparton, from Wednesday September 30 to Tuesday October 13
  • Mooroopna Golf Club Members Bar, Sunday October 4 and Sunday October 11
  • Shepparton Market Place Medical Centre, Midland Highway, Shepparton, Thursday October 8 9:15am - 10:15am
  • Thai Orchid Restaurant, Nixon Street, Shepparton, on Wednesday October 7 from 7:00pm
  • Bombshell Hairdressing, Fryers Street, Shepparton, on Wednesday October 7 after 9:30am
Casual contact locations in Shepparton:
  • Bunnings Warehouse, Midland Highway, Shepparton, Wednesday September 30
  • McDonalds Shepparton North, 169-175 Numurkah Road Shepparton, Saturday October 3
  • Lemon Tree Cafe, Fryers Street Shepparton, October 7 to 12
  • Mooroopna Golf Club Pro Shop, Sunday October 11

Updated 2:55pm October 14, 2020

That man, who had a work permit to visit regional Victoria, was linked to an outbreak at the Chadstone Shopping Centre but did not initially disclose his visit to Shepparton during the first interview with contact tracers.

"If you were at those locations in that time window then we'd ask you to come and get tested regardless of how you feel," Mr Weimar said.

The matter has been referred to the compliance unit of the health department, which is providing information to Victoria Police.

A photo of people lining up early to be tested for coronavirus in Shepparton.A photo of people lining up early to be tested for coronavirus in Shepparton.
People lined up from the early hours on Thursday morning in Shepparton to get tested for coronavirus.(ABC News: Jackson Peck)
Testing sites hit capacity

Farmer Allan Shields, who went to Central Tyre Service during the risk period, was angry he could not get tested on Wednesday.

"I lined up at the Goulburn Valley Hospital at 10:00am and got told four-and-a-half hours later the line was cut off, report back tomorrow," he told ABC Statewide Drive.

"It's the busiest time of the year coming up and I'm trying to do the right thing, but there's no preference to anyone in the line [based on the fact] you were in contact with them [at the tyre shop]."

There were huge queues outside the Shepparton Showgrounds on Wednesday, with many people being turned away hours before the facility closed.

A big electronic sign at Shepparton Hospital pointing to the COVID testing clinic.A big electronic sign at Shepparton Hospital pointing to the COVID testing clinic.
Goulburn Valley Health said it was bringing in reinforcements to help boost coronavirus testing capabilities.(ABC News: Jackson Peck)

The news of the outbreak has been a bitter blow for residents such as John Anderson, the president of the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"We were so hopeful of a relaxation of the restrictions from the Premier this weekend, and I would still be hopeful that that may happen, but that's quite a setback," he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews has flagged a relaxation of some, but not all, restrictions on Sunday, with the state failing to hit the target for the next full step of the roadmap to the easing of restrictions.

Read more about coronavirus:One 'intruder' caused havoc in Shepparton

Mr Anderson heard from a friend testing facilities in nearby towns had also been busy.

"I was speaking to a pharmacist in Kyabram, about 30 minutes from Shepparton, and he told me that the testing centres in Kyabram are overwhelmed because people are coming from Shepparton," he said.

"I guess this is a wake-up call to everybody to be sure that they follow the guidelines."

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A man with dark hair, a black mask and an Adidas t-shirt stands in front of a fenceA man with dark hair, a black mask and an Adidas t-shirt stands in front of a fence
Fred Andronaca is worried the virus may have spread in the local community.(ABC News: Jackson Peck)

Resident Fred Andronaca was in the testing queue at the request of his boss after visiting one of the high-risk locations.

"We were going quite well in Shepparton for a bit and just one intruder into the town has created a bit of havoc," he said.

"It's not good but … we've just got to try and get through it if we can."

He is worried there might be even more cases in town.

Independent MP Suzanna Sheed said on Tuesday the confirmed case had many contacts in the community.

"As you can see, one person's come into town and he's created a fair amount of mayhem, just one person," Mr Andronaca said.

"It's a concern if people aren't getting tested like we are today. It could spread even further in the community."

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