A DROMANA school was last week declared a COVID-19 Tier 1 exposure site and closed for deep cleaning.
It is believed a contractor who visited Peninsula Specialist College, in Old White Hill Road, introduced the virus, Wednesday 8 September.
The mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said schools – especially special schools – were always at risk: “These are vulnerable kids, and their teachers can’t always wear masks because of the [children’s] disabilities. Hopefully no other cases will erupt.”
Other recent Tier 1 sites on the peninsula were BM Hall Kitchens and Cabinets, Progress Street, Mornington and Alpass and Associates in Suffolk Street, Rosebud.
The infections came as visitors reportedly flocked to the peninsula in spite of the Chief Health Officer’s regulations banning travel of more than five kilometres.
One disgruntled short-stay accommodation provider says rental booking sites are “flouting the law by advertising hundreds of properties for rent despite the supposed lockdown”.
The provider, who asked not to be named, said their business had lost thousands [of dollars] in missed bookings because they were obeying the law while their competitors were “getting away with it”.
The COVID-19 restriction checker website says: “Accommodation is closed, except for permitted reasons. Private and public gatherings are not allowed. No new bookings can be made, unless for a permitted reason, such as someone who requires accommodation as an authorised worker.”
The provider sent The News screenshots “illustrating the problem that has continued unchecked over 200 days and six lockdowns”.
“Compliant accommodation providers, like ourselves, have closed during all lockdowns and refunded guests all booking fees. No new bookings are allowed so there’s no availability except for essential workers. Like so many businesses we have lost thousands.”
However, they claimed it was common knowledge some “tourists” were ignoring the stay-at-home rules.
Online booking sites, such as Booking.com, Expedia and Wotif, all listed properties last week, with one even warning prospective guests: “If you change or cancel your booking you will not get a refund or credit to use for a future stay. This policy will apply regardless of COVID-19, subject to any local consumer laws.”
Another property was offering rooms for more than $1000 a night. “What essential worker is likely to pay that money for a room for the night … this is pure opportunism and illegal,” the provider said.
“We have tried raising the issue with council and Victoria Police. The council handpasses to VicPol despite enjoying the revenue from permits from each accommodation provider. Revenue minus responsibility equals extra potential to spread the virus on the peninsula.”
“Victoria Police resources are already stretched and, yes, they will take names of businesses breaking COVID-19 rules, but only one at a time.
“Surely, with all these operators trading illegally in plain sight, the council has an obligation to act for the benefit of the ratepayers who are trying to comply for the common good – despite the mental and financial stress of this extraordinary time.”
The shire says it has “no role in enforcing the Chief Health Officer’s directives”.
“We regulate short stay rentals through a permit system pursuant to our local law, but it is designed to control noise and other amenity issues,” it said in a statement.
The mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said the shire was continually “pushing back” against people moving down for a short break. “It’s frustrating and it’s against the law,” she said.
“The police are using scanners and number plate recognition technology against these people because our biggest risk is having them come here from Melbourne thinking they can do as they want.”
Cr O’Connor said the “high level of entitlement of Melburnians thinking they can just drive down to holiday on the peninsula – when we have a school that’s been infected – is unfair and makes me angry.”
Victoria Police said it “works closely with short-term rental providers, including throughout the coronavirus pandemic, to minimise the potential for high-risk bookings to occur”.
“Anyone who has booked a short-term rental, and plans to cause trouble or break the law, can expect a swift and firm response from police.”