Travel Trouble

No jab, no mail

No jab, no mail

The regional Victorian town of Merrigum may see its only post office shuttered because its operator has refused to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Angela Spedding, who has operated the Merrigum post office and newsagent for more than six years, was told by Australia Post that the post office would have to close if she had not booked in to be vaccinated by the end of this week.

Australia Post denied that Spedding had been told to close the office, but said she had told them it would close on Thursday after discussions about her compliance with health orders.

Spedding posted on social media about her decision that would result in all postal services ceasing, citing her “freedom of choice”. “As for your street mail, they will have another contractor but where it will go I have no idea. I apologise for the inconvenience this will cause for you all but it’s my freedom of choice.”

Under Victorian health orders, about 1.25 million authorised workers are required to be vaccinated by Friday, in an attempt to reduce COVID-19 case numbers before restrictions are eased.

Merrigum has a population of less than 700, and is located in the Goulborn Valley, in the LGA of Greater Shepparton. The population is made up primarily of elderly people, many of whom have already been vaccinated.

Spedding, meanwhile, has been “adamant” about not being vaccinated, citing concerns over side-effects and mistrust of the government. She said, “I don’t watch TV much but I read on Facebook, I don’t think it [the vaccine] should ever be mandated.

“But Australia Post told me I either had to get a vaccine or make an appointment. They’ll be here to clean out all the mail, parcels, everything. If I don’t get vaccinated, they’ll take my business. I don’t want to get it, but it’s throwing what I’ve worked for, for the last seven years, away ... I don’t really have any choice.

“When I took this place over it was run down, they had hardly any clientele, and I built it up to be a good community post office. The community support me.”

Australia Post said it had been complying with government requirements and health directives throughout the pandemic, and was sorry Spedding had chosen to close. They said that if it closed, all mail would be redirected to Girgarre, more than 20km from Merrigum.

Spedding said that with the threat of closure looming, she was beginning to reconsider her decision. The pandemic-induced boom in online shopping and postal deliveries has meant her business is now worth some $250,000, and she hoped to eventually be able to sell the newsagent to fund her retirement. “If they take it away, without Australia Post the newsagent is worth nothing,” she said. “I get $95,000 worth of income from Australia Post a year. I’ve been in tears since I closed at 1 pm today. What am I supposed to do?”

Since Greater Shepparton was sent into lockdown, its vaccination rate has improved from one of the lowest in the state to more than 90% of residents having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Image: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

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