Jockey Noel Callow shown tweets of alleged drinking and drug abuse before riding at Kilmore

Five-time Group 1-winning jockey Noel Callow was left in shock when shown texts of alleged drinking and drug use by stewards prior to riding a hot favourite at Kilmore.

A Twitter handle with just 38 followers sparked a heated stewards inquiry involving jockey Noel Callow before he rode $1.70 favourite Diamonds’n’stones to win at Kilmore on Tuesday.

Callow was at Kilmore for just one ride, the hot elect for Team Hawkes in the second race, when he was asked to provide a random urine sample under the normal drug testing procedure.

But it was the subsequent inquiry into an unsubstantiated “tweet”, responding to the official Racing Victoria stewards Twitter handle on an unrelated matter that raised the jockey’s ire as he prepared to ride the favourite.

The tweet, shown to Callow as a screen shot by stewards, alleged he was seen at a Richmond hotel on Monday “Had 100 pints last night 2 bags, last seen at the sporting globe Richmond claiming not to be Noel Callow”.

It followed another tweet response to Racing Victoria stewards from the same account that alleged Callow had “40 pints and a (picture of a bag) and can no longer ride”.

“I was absolutely stunned,” Callow told Racenet.

“I thought this couldn’t be serious, it rattled me.

“I’m self-employed, I’m there to do a job for my owners who employ me and the trainers. It’s a privilege to ride for John Hawkes and his family and after all that happened I’m behind the barriers thinking this isn’t happening. Thankfully the race couldn’t have gone any better and the horse won like he should have.”

“I arrived at the races early and had a sauna before being told my number was up for a random drug test. I have no problem with that, I had to drink a little water so I could provide a sample.

“I know the stewards have a job to do and absolutely no problem with the drug test, they happen all the time. But it was when stewards called me to the room to talk about the tweet and its allegations that shocked me. I thought ‘are they serious’.”

Callow was then asked to do a breath test, which he agreed to in the jockey’s room within 45 minutes of the race start time. It came back negative.

Callow, who objected to being asked personal questions about his whereabouts on Monday after the allegations were tabled, told stewards he had spent Monday watching American NFL football with fellow jockey Mark Zahra.

“I’m not on social media but it’s disappointing and frustrating that I have to answer these sort of allegations from someone with no credibility.” Callow said.

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Kilmore coronavirus outbreak in regional Victoria sends more than 150 people into quarantine

Victorian health authorities have asked 177 people and their immediate close contacts to self-quarantine in Kilmore, in a bid to stop the regional town’s outbreak from expanding.

There are two active cases in the town, about 60 kilometres north of Melbourne, who caught the virus after a traveller from Melbourne dined in a local cafe while infectious.

The person had a worker permit to enter regional Victoria and did not know they were a contact of an outbreak at Chadstone. But under current restrictions they broke the rules by dining at Kilmore’s Oddfellows Cafe on September 30.

Jeroen Weimar, who is in charge of testing at Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), said 177 people who visited the cafe had been asked to self-quarantine for a fortnight, along with their immediate close contacts.

“They had a call yesterday morning that said, ‘Who do you live with? We need all those people who you live with to stay within the house and we will arrange testing for you to make sure that we keep them safe,'” he said.

He said the “contacts of contacts approach” marked an “evolution” in the way authorities were responding at the start of an outbreak, to immediately limit the spread of the virus beyond a large group of close contacts.

“Making sure that if we’re seeing transmission from the first set of cases to their immediate contact that we’ve already got them in a self-isolated environment,” Mr Weimar said.

He praised the “really responsible and effective work done by the [Oddfellows Cafe]”, which had a register of those who had visited the cafe between Wednesday and Saturday.

“This is devastating for them but they’ve done the right thing all along,” he said.

Oddfellows Cafe has had a deep clean and is closed for at least a week.(ABC News: Gemma Hall)

The area has been identified as a “highly risky transmission site”.

“I think it’s also an indication of the kind of challenges that we, as Victorians, will have to face in the weeks and months ahead,” Mr Weimar said.

Everyone who visited the cafe between September 30 and October 3 has been asked to stay home and get tested, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.

More than 200 people were tested at two sites in Kilmore yesterday.

Wallan hairdresser warns some Melburnians are attempting to flout the rules

Oddfellows Cafe owner Kim Short told the ABC it had been a “very stressful and traumatic … whirlwind 48 hours”.

She said the customer had been in the cafe for less than an hour and her staff wore face masks their entire shift.

“The customer came in, sat at a table, ordered and our staff member took their order, delivered their drinks to the table and that’s about it,” she said.

A laminated sign shows drivers where to go for drive through coronavirus testing.
Authorities have ramped up testing in Kilmore in a bid to suppress the spread of the outbreak.(ABC News: Gemma Hall)

While Ms Short thought her town was somewhat shielded from the virus, others said they were not surprised by the outbreak.

Claire Manktelow is a hairdresser in Wallan, south of Kilmore, and said multiple people with work permits had tried to sneak in a haircut while working in the region.

“It’s mostly tradies that have a workers’ permit. They come into the shop and say do you have time to do a haircut. I ask for their IDs,” she said.

“One guy said he lived down the road until I asked for his ID.”

Ms Manktelow said it was worrying people were “going into businesses and trying to access things they shouldn’t be”.

Businesses fear the impact of another lockdown

The state MP for Euroa, Steph Ryan, said she was concerned the outbreak could end up being much bigger.

“The cafe is a very popular destination so that raises the concern,” she said.

“My overall sense from the community is that people are weary and deeply frustrated.

Ms Ryan said she had been contacted by residents worried about the survival of their businesses if Mitchell Shire plunged back into stricter restrictions.

“Every time something like this happens it puts at risk people’s health and jeopardises the survival of businesses,” she said.

A woman with blonde hair stands in a backyard smiling during the day.
Euroa state MP Steph Ryan says she fears the Kilmore outbreak could get bigger.(Supplied)

Kilmore business owner Dianne Holloway said the news was devastating to the town that was only just starting to recover economically.

“We were just starting to find our feet again and for this to happen now is a real kick in the guts,” she said.

“I don’t understand how someone from Melbourne can think it’s OK to dine in a cafe.”

Ms Holloway said with a high number of elderly residents in the town she would not be surprised to wake up to a ghost town on Wednesday.

Coronavirus spread highlights fragility of being COVID-free, Mayor says

Mayor of Benalla Shire Council Danny Claridge agreed, telling ABC Statewide Drive the outbreak reminded every Victorian how quickly the virus could spread.

“It’s something we thought we’d escape but unfortunately I don’t think anyone in the country is safe,” he said.

Cr Claridge said the Melbourne resident was a sales representative who spent about 90 minutes with the owner of a tyre shop in Benalla. The shop owner has since been tested and returned a negative result.

“He is isolating for 14 days and closing his business for 14 days so hopefully it hasn’t spread,” he said.

“This is an excellent example of how important it is to wear our masks and have good hand hygiene.”

Cr Claridge said he was hopeful Benalla “had ducked a bullet”.

‘There’s a case to close Melbourne off entirely from regional Victoria’

Adrian Esterman, the chair of epidemiology at the University of South Australia, has been closely following how the virus moves around Victoria.

He said the Kilmore outbreak highlighted the trouble with exemptions such as worker permits.

“It’s like a sieve, exemptions should only be for extraordinary circumstances,” Professor Esterman said.

He said with regional Victoria so close to eliminating the virus, very few permits should allow people from Melbourne into the regions.

“It’s a terrible shame there’s been exposure there — we are struggling to get Melbourne under control and the last thing we want is it for to reoccur in regional Victoria,” he said.

“There’s a lot of concern we aren’t seeing cases going down and we are getting these blips.”

Professor Esterman said his own modelling showed Melbourne was on its way to hit its next target of fewer than five daily cases on average over 14 days and fewer than five mystery cases over two weeks.

“It is possible to get it down to that number in two weeks’ time but it’s more difficult when these clusters happen,” he said.

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Victoria records 15 new coronavirus cases as Kilmore cafe worker tests positive to COVID-19

Victoria has recorded 15 new coronavirus infections and one more death, as more cases are linked to an outbreak stemming from Chadstone shopping centre in Melbourne’s south-east.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there were now 28 cases linked to the Butcher Club at Chadstone, up from 24 yesterday.

He said the outbreak was an “illustration” of “just how significantly [coronavirus] can spread far and wide”.

“I don’t think anyone really understands what a gargantuan task the contact tracing has been through this wave,” he said.

“The average family size in Australia is about 2.5 people. We’ve made estimates that the average family size for the 20,000 cases in this second wave has been between six and 10 people.”

Contact tracing during the second wave was also challenging, Professor Sutton said, because many cases had “difficult” social and economic circumstances.

Kilmore cafe worker among latest Chadstone outbreak cases

A cafe worker in the regional town of Kilmore, about 60 kilometres north of Melbourne, tested positive to COVID-19 after coming into contact with an infectious case linked to the Chadstone outbreak.

The Oddfellows Cafe, which is in the Mitchell Shire, was listed as a “high risk” exposure site after a Melbourne resident with COVID-19 dined there while infectious last Wednesday.

Authorities urged anyone who had visited the cafe on September 30 between 7:00am and 10:00am to watch for coronavirus symptoms and get tested.

On the cafe’s Facebook page, owner Kim Short said she was “devastated” to report that the business had received the “dreaded call” on Monday afternoon informing them that one of their staff members who was in contact with the customer had tested positive to coronavirus.

“All our contact tracing has been given to the DHHS and anyone who is considered a close contact will be contacted and those who have already been contacted will most likely be recontacted,” she wrote.

“If you dined in with us from Wednesday to Saturday last week and for some reason you are not contacted by [Tuesday] morning please let me know.”

Ms Short urged anyone in Kilmore with the slightest symptoms to get tested at the local hospital.

Two cases in Kilmore linked to infectious Melbourne traveller

Professor Sutton today said the Melbourne resident, who was a close contact of a case in the Chadstone cluster, had a permitted work reason to go to regional Victoria.

But he said Melburnians who visit regional Victoria should only get takeaway food, rather than sitting down and dining.

“You can only go [to regional Victoria] for the purposes of your work, and those other essential things that you might require,” he said.

“But not to enjoy the fruits of regional Victoria, as it were.”

Professor Sutton said there was one other case in Kilmore apart from the cafe worker, who was also a close contact of the Melbourne resident.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the spread of the virus from Chadstone to Kilmore showed how “wildly infectious” coronavirus was.

‘Lineball’ on whether roadmap targets will be met

Melbourne’s 14-day rolling case average is now 10.6, down from 11.6 on Monday.

There are still 13 cases with an unknown source included in the latest two-week period.

About 9,200 coronavirus tests results have been processed overnight, which Mr Andrews described as a “good, strong number”.

Eight of today’s 15 new cases are linked to known outbreaks and seven are still under investigation.

There are now 21 Victorians with coronavirus in hospital, including one person in intensive care.

The case trigger points for Melbourne to move to the next step in its restrictions roadmap are a statewide 14-day average below five, and fewer than five mystery cases recorded over a two-week period.

Regional Victoria moved to the third step on September 17.

Regional Victoria’s 14-day average remains at 0.3, after authorities confirmed a test result recorded in Shepparton was a false positive.

On Monday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there was a chance Victoria might not meet the targets needed for Melbourne to move to step three on October 19.

“My gut feeling is it will be a lineball. It’s not certain one way or the other,” he told reporters.

But both he and Premier Daniel Andrews have said health officials will take factors other than the hard numbers into consideration, such as the portion of cases linked to known outbreaks.

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