Vic premier walks back third jab mandate

Callum Godde and Emily Woods |

Cleaners say Victoria’s schools have cut back on enhanced cleaning measures for term one.
Cleaners say Victoria’s schools have cut back on enhanced cleaning measures for term one.

A mandate requiring three COVID-19 jabs to participate in Victoria’s vaccinated economy may be too difficult to implement, Premier Daniel Andrews has conceded.

The state reported 8149 new COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths on Wednesday, with the easing Omicron wave prompting a plan to lift elective surgery limits by the end of the month.

Mr Andrews had previously indicated that once the definition of fully vaccinated was changed to requiring three vaccine doses, this would be extended to Victoria’s vaccinated economy.

At the moment, Victorians must have received two doses to attend venues, including events, pubs and restaurants.

However, the premier seemed to walk back this stance on Thursday.

“There comes a point where things become kind of impractical and you’ve got so many different systems operating at once that it doesn’t really work,” he told reporters.

“For instance saying to someone, ‘you can’t go to the pub unless you’ve got three jabs’ but the person sitting at the table next to you… from another country has only got two, it kind of gets a bit hard to justify.”

Meanwhile, Melbourne’s public hospitals will be able to perform category two surgery from Monday and private metro hospitals can ramp up to 75 per cent capacity for any type of elective surgery, up from 50 per cent.

The elective surgery shackles could be thrown off completely a week later on February 28, at the discretion of Health Minister Martin Foley.

Each hospital will also assess their own capacity based on staff availability and COVID-19 demands, with 44 still treating infected patients.

In regional Victoria, the private hospitals cap will rise from 75 per cent to 100 per cent from Monday and public hospitals will continue to carry out any elective surgery based on their individual capacity.

Victoria suspended all less urgent category two and three surgery in early January as the Omicron variant ran rampant through the community, ratcheting up pressure on the health system.

But the state’s rolling seven-day COVID hospitalisation average now sits at 457 patients, down from a peak of more than 1200 patients in mid-January. 

Staff unavailability figures have also fallen by roughly two-thirds to 1400 workers.

Before the month-long suspension of category two and three procedures, Victoria’s elective surgery waiting list had ballooned from 67,177 to 80,826 in the final three months of 2021.

Mr Andrews said he spoke with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet on Tuesday about ways to reduce the backlog, including a possible elective surgery blitz.

“Where we can work together we will,” he said.

“There’ll be a time for us to make those announcements. The most important thing is to get those services back on and that’s why this morning’s announcements are so welcome.”

Mr Andrews also flagged he would make some “very important announcements about rules” and “normalising this virus” later this week.

QR code check-ins and venue density limits are currently under review.

With international borders reopening, he cautioned that Victorians will be dealing with influenza outbreaks as well as the virus come winter.

“We are going to finish up with COVID and the flu, and we haven’t had that before,” he said.


* Hospital cases: 397, down 44

* Intensive care cases: 68, up one

* Ventilated cases: 13, down one

* PCR tests processed on Tuesday: 23,278

* Positive PCR tests: 2854

* Positive rapid tests: 5295

* Active cases: 49,936, down 1031