Vic mandates boosters, dancefloors close
Emily Woods and Benita Kolovos |
Victoria will mandate COVID-19 vaccine boosters for critical workers, indoor dancefloors will close and food workers will be exempt from isolation rules under pandemic order changes.
The state recorded 34,808 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths on Monday, with hospital admissions rising by 66 to 818 patients, including 118 in intensive care. Twenty-eight people are on a ventilator.
Health Minister Martin Foley said the new orders, which come into effect at 11.59pm on Wednesday, are needed to counter the “significant spike” in infections and the rise in hospitalisations.
He said modelling suggests cases will peak at the end of January to early February, with hospitalisations and deaths to peak in the subsequent weeks.
“These are the measures we need to keep our critical services open and operating whilst we get through what will be a profoundly challenging January,” Mr Foley told reporters.
Under the changes, workers in health and aged care, disability, emergency services, corrections, quarantine accommodation and food distribution will be required to get their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to continue working on site.
The deadline varies but those currently eligible for a third dose will have until February 12.
The mandate does not apply to retail supermarket staff.
Close contact isolation requirements will no longer apply to food supply workers, including those in retail, manufacturing and distribution, bringing the state into line with NSW and Queensland.
These workers must be asymptomatic and produce negative daily rapid antigen tests for five days.
Meanwhile, indoor dancefloors will also close from midnight on Wednesday to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
Mr Foley said wedding dancefloors are excluded but it is recommended they are moved outdoors.
It is also recommended hospitality businesses return to seated service only.
Visitor restrictions will also be applied to hospitals and in aged care settings.
Acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie said one in 40 people living in Victoria have tested positive to COVID-19.
However, with one in five tests coming back COVID-positive, he said it was likely there is “a lot more transmission out there”.
“It would not be out of the ballpark to suggest that something like four per cent of the Victorian population has COVID-19 right now,” he said.
Professor Cowie said it is a “shocking statistic” but it is not translating to high hospitalisations, thanks to the milder nature of the Omicron variant and vaccination rates.
He said more than half of the state’s active infections were in healthy people aged in their 20s to 40s.
It comes as the vaccine rollout for children aged between five and 11 has been marred by supply issues on the first day of the program.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Victorian chair Anita Munoz said supply was coming in “sporadically” with some GPs given 100 doses a week and others 100 per fortnight.
“That is, really, terribly inadequate numbers for general practices to vaccinate kids,” she told AAP.
The head of Australia’s vaccine rollout Lieutenant General John Frewen denied there were supply problems and encouraged parents to book through pharmacies and state hubs if they cannot get in with a doctor.
Mr Foley said there were 40,000 appointments available to children at state hubs, and that issues with GP or pharmacy supplies were a matter for the Commonwealth.AAP