GREATER Bendigo residents have been out in the community with COVID-19 because of a failure to take the disease seriously, Bendigo Health reports.
The organisation has warned it will become harder and harder to contain outbreaks unless all residents take the virus seriously.
Bendigo Health chair Bob Cameron warned everybody to recognise they themselves were potentially at risk, pointing to strong social links within the community to many of the outbreak locations.
Mr Cameron said Bendigo Health's contract tracers reported many people had taken the view that the coronavirus was not prevalent, and not much of an issue.
Some of them have gone about their business after having a test, as a result, he said.
Others have been sick for two or three days with a cold before getting tested he said.
"There have been people out and about, all around the place, who have, or potentially have, coronavirus. That's a concern to us," Mr Cameron said.
"We want everyone to recognise this is a real disease, so everybody takes it seriously. They're not going to work, they're not going out when they've got symptoms, they're going to get a test.
"That's very important. We've got the cases that we have but if we've got more and more outbreaks it's going to be harder and harder to get it back into the box."
Mr Cameron did not specify how many people had been out in the community while awaiting test results.
Greater Bendigo had 56 reported COVID-19 cases, including a cluster of at least 16 at Hazeldene's and at least 14 and St Joseph's Catholic Primary School.
Active case numbers have nearly than doubled since Wednesday last week, when they stood at 29.
Mr Cameron attributed Greater Bendigo's high case numbers compared to other regional areas to outbreaks at two meatworks in the region - Don KR in Castlemaine and Hazeldene's - and at St Joseph's Primary.
Of other regional centres Ballarat had 18 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday in a population of about 102,000. Greater Geelong had 164 active cases in a population of about 233,000.
Greater Bendigo's population is about 110,000.
Mr Cameron urged caution for everyone in the community.
"There's not a person in Bendigo who doesn't know someone who knows someone who works at KR Castlemaine, or at Hazeldene's, or attends St Joseph's," he said.
"Everyone has to recognise that they are potentially at risk. And the best thing that they can do is shelter indoors, only go out when they have to, only go to work when they have to, so ... the opportunities for cross infection is taken away.
"That way we can bring about containment, and hopefully eliminate this disease from central Victoria."
Premier Daniel Andrews has repeatedly warned people that they need to self isolate while waiting on test results.
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