Victoria launches Indigenous COVID-19 vaccine push as it records 1,377 new cases

The numbers reveal almost half of today's new cases in Victoria are in people aged under 30.

Victoria's deputy premier and education minister James Merlino.

James Merlino has announced a mobile vaccination push among Indigenous communities in regional areas. Source: AAP

Victoria has reported 1,377 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and another four deaths, as health authorities launch a mobile vaccine initiative targeting Indigenous communities.

Of the new cases reported on Monday, which come from 67,789 tests, 45 per cent are among those aged between 10 and 29.

There are 498 people currently in hospital with COVID-19, with 96 in ICU and 59 requiring a ventilator.

Of the over 16s, 52.5 per cent are now fully vaccinated while 82.8 per cent have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Interestingly, if we include the total eligible population of people 12 years and over, the first dose rate is very close behind at 81.1 per cent," Deputy Premier James Merlino said on Monday.

"This really does reflect the rapid and enthusiastic uptake of vaccines in the newly eligible 12-15 cohort, with 160,000 young people coming forward for their first dose in the past few weeks."

Mobile vaccination initiative for First Nations communities

Mr Merlino has announced a mobile vaccination van initiative to help boost vaccine numbers among Indigenous people in the state's regional areas.

“The Victorian Aboriginal community controlled health organisation, community leaders and other health services are partnering to bring dedicated vaccination vans into our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities," he said.

“Three of Victoria’s Smile Squad dental vans will be repurposed as vaccination vans with the first heading to Shepparton today.”

Shepparton in northern Victoria has the largest Aboriginal population in the state outside of Melbourne, and is currently in lockdown.

Vaccine uptake in Victoria’s First Nations communities is lower than the broader Victorian population, with 65 per cent having received a first dose, Mr Merlino said.

“We do know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at a higher risk of COVID-19 due to a number of factors, including pre-existing medical conditions and large households.

“So this is a really important initiative which will bring the vaccine directly to some of our most at-risk communities.”

More tier 1 exposure sites have been listed in Shepparton and Morwell overnight, with the Delta outbreak also spreading further into Melbourne's southeastern suburbs.

But COVID-19 cases in the city's northern suburbs had begun to stabilise, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Monday.

"That really is a reflection of the huge increase in vaccination uptake in those local government areas in the last couple of weeks, as they've gone to the state average and beyond in some of those postcodes," Professor Sutton said.

COVID-19 fragments have also been picked up in sewage samples from Mildura.

Dozens of Year 12 students test positive as term four kicks off

Dozens of final-year Victorian students have tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of returning to classrooms for annual tests.

Mr Merlino, who is also the state's education minister, said 33 VCE students from COVID-19 hotspots were among the new cases, after 8,000 were tested in the lead up to Tuesday's repeatedly rescheduled General Achievement Test.

"We may not have found these cases otherwise, so that goes a long way to help us hold the GAT as safely as possible tomorrow," he told reporters on Monday.

"The department of education is contacting these students and letting them know that they cannot sit the GAT, and we will make arrangements for how they can sit their exams at a later stage, if indeed they are unable to sit any of their exams."

Regional Victorian students in prep, Year 1 and Year 12 returned to classrooms on Monday under the first part of a staggered plan.

On Monday Mr Merlino also announced a $230 million funding boost for the tutor program that has aimed to improve attendance, achievement and engagement in schools throughout the pandemic.

“Each individual school will receive the same allocation as they received this year, except for our very, very small schools. Their allocation will actually go up from $15,000 to $25,000 as a minimum allocation, enabling our very small schools to provide more hours, more staff, to deliver the tutor program.”

The deputy premier added that once schools return, they will aim to keep school closures as a result of outbreaks to a minimum.

"If there is an outbreak in a school, they will be the need to immediately close contacts and clean a school, but in the past it has been for a 14-day period, all students doing remote learning.

"We are working with the department of health to ensure we can keep the number of students impacted and the time as short as possible."

Melbourne most locked down city

The daily figures come as Melbourne claims the unenviable title of the world's most locked down city.

The state capital on Monday chalked up 246 days living under stay-at-home orders across six lockdowns, surpassing the record set by the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires.

Premier Daniel Andrews says he is proud of the sacrifices Melburnians have made over the pandemic and is calling on them to make a final push before lockdown ends in coming weeks.

"We are going to get past this. We are going to end this lockdown and open up, and all that we will enjoy then will be a result of all that we have given," he told reporters on Sunday.

Epidemiologist Tony Blakely, a long-time supporter of the elimination strategy, said the lockdowns saved lives but Victoria had been unfortunate to have so many.

"If we let it rip last year, we would have had severe mortality and morbidity. It's just that we haven't had the same luck as other places," he told ABC TV on Monday.

Victoria is forecast to hit 70 per cent vaccination coverage of its 16-plus population on 26 October, triggering the end of lockdown under the state's roadmap before restrictions ease further at 80 per cent.

Mr Andrews is hopeful the reduction of the second dose Pfizer interval in state-run clinics from six to three weeks from Monday will speed up meeting those targets.

With AAP


Share
Published 4 October 2021 at 8:55am, updated 4 October 2021 at 1:21pm
Source: SBS News