Six hours by car from Melbourne, residents of a city of 30,000 people have been locked down despite having zero active coronavirus cases since April.
Mildura, a regional Victorian powerhouse, is closer to Adelaide than Melbourne but Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had enforced two lockdowns on the city.
But today, there is sweet relief for those who felt “angry and frustrated” and largely ignored — a number of restrictions will be eased by midnight tonight.
The Premier told regional Victorians on Tuesday morning that they can leave the house with no restrictions on Wednesday as cases remain largely confined to metropolitan Melbourne.
They will be able to dine out, have people over to their homes and play community sport again. Retail outlets will be slowly re-opened and 20 peole will be able to attend funerals.
It comes after locals who spoke to news.com.au expressed their frustration — and businesses struggled to stay afloat.
Carrie, 37, said the people of Mildura were doing their best to stay positive but frustration and anger was building.
“The overwhelming sentiment is a sense of total despair,” she said.
“We are all feeling the same — angry, frustrated and ignored. We buckled down for the second lockdown knowing full well that we were not directly impacted with no active cases or evidence of community transmission.
“We sucked it up when we could no longer come and go over the bridge after NSW shut its borders. We remained stoic despite the fact that so many of us are very closely tied to South Australia and Adelaide and have no idea when we will be able to see our friends and family again. It definitely won’t be in time for Christmas.”
She said it made no sense for Mildura to be treated the same as other regional cities like Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong where there have been coronavirus outbreaks.
“I can only leave my house for one of four reason and I wear a mask, my children are schooling from home, we cannot see our friends and family and yet those in Sydney are at greater risk of contracting the virus than I am,” she said.
“We are not being considered and it really hurts.”
Brendan, 38, said it was “crazy” that we are still having these restrictions imposed on us”.
“We share a border with SA and NSW and are quite isolated from the rest of Victoria, so the chances of the virus jumping across multiple LGA’s to infect us is minimal,” he said.
“It’s ridiculous that our kids are not at school and I’m not buying the line that our students can’t attend school as it will give them an advantage over metro students.
“I guarantee if Mildura was the only hot spot in Victoria, Melbourne schools would not be closed.”
He said the Victorian Government’s decision to treat all of regional Victoria the same was hard to swallow.
“It’s hard to accept that an outbreak in Geelong or Gippsland can prevent us functioning as a community.”
Social worker Linda Bennett said vulnerable young people in Mildura were having a really hard time.
“Some of the young people I support to live independently on their own. For these young people the isolation is detrimental to already struggling mental health. Many of these young people do not have family support, in reality their families are a source of trauma and disjunction.
“Like all humans they long to feel loved, safe within community and a sense of belonging with their peers. Restrictions intervene and do not allow these young people to feel safe and connected to community.”
But Ms Bennett also sees the benefits of locking down regional Victoria.
“I do not wish to see travel to Mildura from areas with COVID-19 cases,” she said.
“Personally I am more concerned by the restrictions in cross border travel. Having to apply for travel permits from a zone with no cases to travel to Adelaide for access to health professionals or to NSW for activities reasonably carried out as a part of everyday living is beyond explanation and extremely stressful.
“Being met by police officers or armed forces to move around for essential purposes is like being in a horror movie.”
The Premier is today expected to make further announcements about easing restrictions on regional Victoria today.
He hinted at moving to the Third Step on the regional Victoria roadmap last week, praising rural communities for doing their bit to keep virus numbers low.
“We’ll be here tomorrow and hopefully we’ve had no mystery cases in the data I report tomorrow, and hopefully we can have more to say,” Mr Andrews said on Monday.
“Hopefully we have some very, very good news for regional Victoria tomorrow, but that is subject to the numbers that come in today.
“There’s an opportunity for regional Victoria to take yet another step in just a few days time if these trends continue.”