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Victoria has reported a record 17,636 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths, as the state government considers additional public health measures to stem the virus’ spread, and testing sites continue to be overwhelmed.
Wednesday’s case numbers eclipsed the previous record of 14,020, set on Tuesday.
Testing sites have been at full capacity and forced to close early in recent days, despite changes to who should be receiving PCR versus rapid antigen tests. Credit:Wayne Taylor
There are at least 51,317 active COVID-19 cases across Victoria, noting health authorities have warned the numbers are undoubtedly under-reported as people struggle to access under-strain PCR testing sites.
NSW has reported 35,054 new coronavirus cases.
The Victorian government is weighing introducing additional public health measures to curb the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.
Among those up for discussion are density limits on hospitality venues and closing indoor dance floors, however, onerous measures like lockdowns and limits on household gatherings are not presently being considered.
The number of people in hospital in Victoria with COVID-19 has risen to 591, and 106 people are in the intensive care unit. Of those, 53 still have an active infection, and 20 are on a ventilator.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Ambulance Victoria was under a “code red” alert – the same declaration issued during the Black Saturday bushfires, and the 2016 deadly thunderstorm asthma event.
A spokesperson for the emergency service pointed to the pandemic as a reason for the “extreme” demand. The red alert was downgraded in a couple of hours, at about 3am.
Another 18,853 Victorians rolled up their sleeves on Tuesday to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the proportion of the population aged over 12 who are fully vaccinated to 93 per cent. A total of 11 per cent have received a booster dose.
From Wednesday, 28 state-run pop-up booster vaccination clinics will open across Victoria, and existing, fixed sites will expand to operating 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
Children aged between five and 11 can also receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from next week. The Victorian booking system for paediatric vaccines at state-run clinics was meant to go live on Monday morning, but its launch was delayed because of a technical glitch.
The state’s COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said authorities expected the service to be online on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, though, the Victorian government’s website still said bookings would open “later this week”.
Young children can already book in to receive their vaccines at their local general practitioners and pharmacies, and the technical issue is not expected to delay jabs at state-run clinics.
Tuesday was another big day for Victoria’s testing facilities, with 59,682 tests processed across the state.
Wait times at testing sites continued to blow out on Wednesday morning, with at least 37 at full capacity and forced to temporarily close by about 8.20am.
The sites forced to close included the Aughtie Walk drive-through at Albert Park, Moonee Valley Racecourse, Chelsea Basketball Stadium at Bonbeach, Hume City Council at Broadmeadows, La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus site, and St Vincent’s Hospital.
A total of more than 50 testing sites run by private pathology labs 4Cyte, ACL, Melbourne Pathology, and Dorevitch across the state are additionally set to remain closed until at least Sunday, as they deal with a backlog of test results that need to be processed.
Federal government sources said Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to offer additional rapid antigen kits to states at Wednesday’s national cabinet meeting, to be given out for free from testing hubs.
With Melissa Cunningham, Paul Sakkal, and Rachel Clun
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