Covid hits school, workers lose hours
Fake vaccination and mask exemption certificates prompt police warning of $1000 fines
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
THE COVID-19 virus is spreading through the Toodyay community with up to three new cases a day reported at Toodyay District High School before the Easter break.
More than 700 Wheatbelt cases were recorded in the first week of April, with new cases growing to 90 a day.
Increasing numbers of Toodyay residents were testing positive using Rapid Antigen Tests available at the town’s pharmacy and IGA store, and others were self-isolating at home after having been in close contact with people who tested positive.Read more
Northam Hospital declined to provide case numbers but it is understood some Toodyay residents may have sought treatment there.
School students who tested positive or those with close classroom contacts were required to isolate at home with their families for seven days, causing local businesses that employ parents to shut or reduce hours due to staff shortages.
Toodyay police warned that at least three fake exemption certificates had been used by people trying to gain illegal entry to local business premises, an offence that carries an on-the-spot fine of $1000 (see Police Beat column).
The town’s two hotels remained open but sales were affected and staff hours cut.
The Toodyay Community Resource Centre closed for two days after a case was reported at the “View from the Magpie’s Nest outdoor music and art event (pictured right) that it co-presented in Stirling Terrace last month.
No resource centre staff tested positive for the virus but Toodyay Shire President Rosemary Madacsi said she felt unwell after attending the event and later tested positive, causing her to miss last month’s council meeting while isolating at home for seven days.
President Madacsi said she felt ill and tired “in waves’ after testing positive at home on her second attempt following an initial negative Rapid Antigen Test result.
Severity of symptoms has varied, with normally healthy people reporting a more severe illness than they expected while isolating at home.
One Shire of Toodyay employee tested positive last month and returned to work after recovering.
Two more returned to work after isolating for seven days following close contact with others who tested positive.
Ten shire staff were working from home on rotational shifts to limit disruption in case others in the office tested positive, which would require all close contacts in the workplace to isolate at home for seven days.
Several local businesses joined the shire in splitting their workforces into home-based rosters to avoid closures.
Others, such as Toodyay Fairytale Farm, were forced to shut because of COVID-19 among family members but said on Facebook that they hoped to re-open for Easter holidays.
Toodyay Tyres was also forced to close for a few days at the end of last month and has since re-opened.
Supplies of food and other household items were generally returning to normal at Toodyay’s IGA store after shortages caused by widespread flooding in January halted eastern states’ rail deliveries.
IGA store owner Dean Carter said there were still shortages of some items such as canned pet food at the start of this month because of a shortage of ingredients imported from China.
“We have plenty of fresh food but a lot depends on whether suppliers have to shut down for seven days if their workers test positive,” Mr Carter said.
Lots of local businesses were “feeling the pinch” and trade was down at the Victoria Hotel.
“Business at the restaurant and bar has been pretty diabolical and we have had to reduce staff hours,” Mr Carter said.
“However, we are seeing a lot of tourists and things are starting to pick up.
“We’re all in the same boat and by Easter it should be full-on.
“Pubs everywhere have taken a bit of a hit and are a lot worse off in Perth, so we’re not complaining.”
Freemasons Hotel owner John Pearce said his pub was similarly affected by “Covid hesitancy”.
“There’s a new word for it – ‘HOGO’, the Hassle Of Going Out,” he said.
“Covid is here to stay, and our town’s business survival depends on getting through this week rather than worrying about what might happen next week or next month.”
The State Government is expected to ease isolation and close contact rules as the virus becomes more common in the community, though the emergence of new variants may cause restrictions to return.