Victoria's Greater Shepparton and Moorabool Shire to go into snap lockdown

The seven-day lockdown for regional Victoria's Greater Shepparton and Moorabool Shire means residents will be under the same restrictions as in metropolitan Melbourne, excluding the curfew.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Source: AAP

Greater Shepparton and Moorabool Shire, to the west and north of Melbourne, will both will enter snap, seven-day lockdowns from 11.59pm on Friday to contain growing outbreaks.

Victoria’s Acting Chief Health Officer, Ben Cowie, said the decision has been made based on health advice about the risk from the rise in COVID-19 cases in the areas.

“If you’re in the City of Greater Shepparton, please follow the lockdown restrictions, get tested if you have symptoms, and get vaccinated if you haven’t already," he said in a statement.

“We’ve just seen the Ballarat and Geelong communities get through an outbreak, so we know it can be done – it’s vital we protect the local community and the rest of regional Victoria from significant outbreaks.”

The same restrictions as apply in metropolitan Melbourne, excluding the curfew, will be included in the seven-day lockdown for Greater Shepparton and Moorabool Shire. 

On Friday, Victoria posted 1,143 new local COVID-19 cases and three deaths as Premier Daniel Andrews announced mandatory vaccines for authorised workers.

The numbers come from 62,883 tests in the 24 hours to midnight on Thursday.

Mr Andrews said he was "pleased" with Friday's numbers given Thursday's sharp jump in cases by 500 to 1,438 - a new pandemic record for the state.

But he said Victoria still faced a huge challenge.

"Today obviously is less than that and we are pleased, although we shouldn't underestimate the challenge that 1,143 COVID patients present, whether it be our hospitals in the ultimate sense, contact tracers, all the other support services, in the challenges they will face having to isolate and those who are close to them," he told reporters.

Authorities said illegal gatherings in Melbourne over the AFL grand final long weekend are to blame for Thursday's rise in case numbers.

Victoria announces vaccine mandate for authorised workers

They believe at least 500 of Thursday's cases are linked to AFL gatherings and are urging anyone who attended one to get tested, whether they or their companions are displaying symptoms or not.

Friday's deaths included a man in his 80s, a woman in her 70s and a man in his 70s.

There are 395 people currently in hospital with COVID-19, of which 87 are in intensive care and 59 are on a ventilator.

Mr Andrews said only five per cent of those in hospital are fully vaccinated.

"The key point here is only a tiny number of people who become gravely ill have had a first and a second dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines," he said.

Vaccine mandate for authorised workers

To try to keep the state on its path out of lockdown, the premier announced that by 15 October, all authorised workers across Victoria must have had at least one vaccine dose, unless they have a medical exemption.

They must be fully vaccinated by 26 November.

“This is critically important to keep the case numbers down so that we can open up on 26 October, get our freedom back, get the economy going again, and deliver the national plan,” Mr Andrews said.

"This is advice from both the Burnet Institute and advice from the acting chief health officer and the public health team and, as all Victorians know and understand, if we are provided with that advice then we follow that advice."

"The science is what will get us through this and it is incredibly important that people who have not had a first dose and are an authorised worker are moving, are out and about, are part of all of that movement that we know is so challenging when it comes to the spread of this virus."

Victoria's list of authorised workers can be found here.

Other professions already subject to vaccine mandates such as teachers, healthcare workers and construction workers are not affected by the new mandate and have their own timelines, Mr Andrews said.

Victoria's vaccination double dose coverage has now tipped over 50 per cent among those aged 16 and over, with 80.9 per cent having had their first dose.

By 26 October, 70 per cent of the eligible population is expected to be fully vaccinated.

Grants for mini-vax hubs

To help bring the 80 per cent fully vaccinated benchmark forward, the premier on Friday announced an expansion of the pharmacy and GP grant program, which will provide the state's primary care network with 100 $4,000 grants and a smaller number of $10,000 grants.

"Around another 90 to 100 GP surgeries and pharmacy businesses that will receive those grants that will allow them to employ more staff to operate longer hours to perhaps, render some space where their clinic or their pharmacy business is not quite enough to be able to run, essentially, a mini vaccination hub," Mr Andrews said.

He added that the federal government had confirmed there was sufficient vaccine supply for all Victorians to get vaccinated over the next four to five weeks.

The time between Pfizer vaccine doses will also be halved to three weeks in Victoria.

The interval change kicks in from Monday, allowing anyone who has received their first Pfizer dose to bring forward their second. The state's vaccine booking system will be updated overnight on Sunday.

There will also be a shift in 88,000 Moderna vaccines from community pharmacies to state clinics to hasten the rollout, with pharmacists struggling to cope with the sudden demand.

Despite the federal government expanding Pfizer eligibility to Australians over 60 from Friday, the change is not being implemented in Victoria's state-run hubs.

For a list of Victoria's exposure sites, click here.

With AAP

Published 1 October 2021 at 10:07am, updated 1 October 2021 at 7:39pm
By Caroline Riches
Source: SBS News