The chances of COVID-19 reaching Ararat are increasing each week as an unspecified number of staff from the Hopkins Correctional Centre travel to and from Melbourne for 'essential' work.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice confirmed "an unspecified number of staff" from the Ararat-based medium-security prison are providing security services in coronavirus hotspots, such as hotels and housing estates.
"We cannot give a specific number of staff from the Hopkins Correctional Centre due to security concerns," the spokesperson said.
"Just like doctors, security staff are considered essential workers."
More than 30 cases of COVID-19 are linked to the bungled hotel quarantine program.
Initially, the Victorian government hired private security firms, which in turn subcontracted guards, to watch international travellers quarantined at hotels in Melbourne.
But numerous protocol breaches led to coronavirus outbreaks.
Management of the hotel quarantine program is now being done by Corrections Victoria, which also manages the state's prisons, including Ararat.
Member for Ripon Louise Staley said she is concerned about risks forced upon the community.
"People make the point that we haven't had a case in many weeks," Ms Staley said.
"I've spoken with spouses of security guards who have seen the rosters and can confirm the security staff work seven days on and seven days off.
"There is no quarantine period.
"Clearly there is a risk that we have people travelling to people at all, let alone a COVID-19 hotspot."
Ms Staley said this matter is a pressing issue for the community.
"I have had a lot of phone calls from Ararat people concerned about this very issue," Ms Staley said.
"I am concerned. I'd like to see the government explain why it thinks this is safe.
"We also assume the prison is still safe while some staff are in Melbourne.
"Do they have enough people to carry out their duties?
"If so, where are the excess security guards coming from?"
Rob Berandi of the Central Motor Inn Ararat echoed Ms Staley's opinion.
"This is just my personal opinion, but I truly think the security guards should not go to Melbourne at all," he said.
"All we need is for one security guard to come back with the virus and we will be as bad off as Melbourne.
"The great thing about living in a country town is we are safe from the coronavirus.
"I don't want anyone mucking that up for the rest of us."
Ararat Rural City Council mayor Jo Armstrong said while there is a concern about spreading the coronavirus to the town, security staff play an important role in the community.
"We need to work together as a team across the state of Victoria to look after each other," Cr Armstrong said.
"It is important to provide support to others ... someone has to do it.
"We have to believe the security staff - some of whom may be from Ararat - are being diligent and doing the right thing.
"Just like our cleaners, pharmacy staff and front line workers, we cannot take any of them for granted.
"Just because we are in regional victoria, does not mean we are exempt from responsibility."
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