Shepparton shows their stuff

TAKING CARE OF THE QUEUE... Staff from GV Health distributed water among the hundreds of people waiting to get tested for COVID-19. Photo: Steve Hutcheson

FACED with the announcement that three people had tested positive to the COVID-19 and a number of locations around Shepparton were considered hot spots, the people of the city turned out in their thousands to get tested and stop the spread of the virus dead in its tracks.

The challenge for GV Health and the authorities was how to deal with such a positive yet massive response. In the end, on the Wednesday, they were overwhelmed and many people, including myself, after standing in line for several hours, were told to come back the following day. In total, across all locations in the Goulburn Valley, between Wednesday and Sunday, 6,323 people were tested for the virus.

The authorities managed to bring in a number of additional testing stations to take the load off but even so, queues were still long. At GV Health, after arriving at 8.30am in the morning, I still faced a six and half hour wait before it came time to tickle my nose. I was finally out of there by 3.00pm.

In all that time, what was evident was the mass show of patience by all of those in the lines, all concerned for their own health of course, afraid and uncertain, but all showing the mettle of the community when faced with an adverse situation in bringing it under control.

But it was not just those in line, it was others. Most notably from my position in the queue were two great examples of selfless community spirit from individuals in addition to the concern shown by GV Health handing out bottled water and sunscreen to all and sundry.

On Wednesday, it was hot, the queue was long and people had not come prepared. Then along comes Rita and Steve Bergamin from Waaia, complete with a stack of crazy sun hats and a collection of umbrellas, including her favourite, that she handed out without any expectation.

Thursday was much the same. A few hours into the waiting, Carmel Johnson from the GV Health Foundation was busy along the lines trying to maintain spirits, going along with hand sanitiser, passing out bottles of vodka and gin disguised as water and then distributing cases of cool and refreshing mandarins and apples that had been donated by Finer Fruits from Vaughn Street, Shepparton.

The main thing that comes out of the event, if it can be called that, is the spirit of cooperation the community showed. The police were on-site to deal with any disturbances but none eventuated. People knew the purpose and what was required of them and they displayed it in spades – patience, perseverance and responsibility.