Commercial rent relief program extended as Victoria records 25,526 new COVID cases

There have been 1,681 COVID-related deaths in Victoria since the start of the pandemic, although the Department of Health said that number included one death which had been double counted and the number would be officially updated on Sunday.

NSW has reported 48,768 cases, 27,020 from PCR tests and 21,748 from self-reported rapid antigen tests.

With 23,938 coronavirus vaccines given at Victorian state-run centers on Friday, around 93% of the population over the age of 12 received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 22% of people aged over 18 received a booster dose.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the country had reached a 95% vaccination rate for people over the age of 16 after a record three days.

More than a million vaccines have been delivered in the past three days, Mr Hunt said, a record for any vaccination program in Australia’s history.

“We have reached the vaccination rate of 95%. This is often called a full level of vaccination, but we want to go further,” Hunt said.

“We want to continue to encourage Australians to come forward and see this – which is a figure that exceeded almost any possible predictions that were made at the start of the pandemic and the deployment – ​​as an achievement for all Australians. but in particular for all those associated with the deployment.

The high vaccination uptake comes as Victorian authorities confirmed they would start using the state’s quarantine hotels to house patients infected with the virus from next week in a bid to free up hospital beds. hospitals.


Mr Hunt said the rise in cases around the world underscored the need for more work on Australia’s vaccines despite the achievement.

“There are real signs of hope and it’s a very difficult time. It is a difficult time for the world,” he said. “We have seen that over the last few days the official global figures have exceeded 4 million compared to 500,000 a day before Omicron, and these are the official figures and we know that the global figures are inevitably much higher than that.

Professor Allen Cheng, who co-chairs the Australian Immunization Technical Advisory Group, said key national vaccine advisers are now assessing whether a COVID-19 vaccine, which specifically targets the highly mutated Omicron variant, will be needed in Australia to stem an epidemic that currently infects tens of thousands of people a day.

One such vaccine is made by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and is expected to be available from March.

“All of this is on the table,” said the infectious disease physician and epidemiologist. “But it is still too early to make the call. We have to wait for the data.

Professor Cheng said the need for a second booster later this year cannot be ruled out, particularly if a more infectious, virulent and vaccine-evading strain emerges or if Omicron continues to push healthcare systems to the brink. .

Professor of Epidemiology Mary-Louise McLaws.

Professor of Epidemiology Mary-Louise McLaws.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Epidemiologist steps back to fight brain tumor

One of Australia’s top epidemiologists – whose name and voice has become familiar to many households over the past two years of the pandemic – will take time off to receive treatment for a brain tumour.

UNSW professor of epidemiology Mary-Louise McLaws, the World Health Organization’s adviser on COVID-19, announced via Twitter on Saturday that she was diagnosed after suffering a severe headache on Thursday.

“I will now be on one month sick leave from UNSW and WHO. Thanks to the media for helping me spread the knowledge. Now it’s time with my family,” she said.

The government is moving forward with the medi-hotel plan

The state government on Friday confirmed a new system that will see COVID patients transferred to hotel quarantine starting Monday to reduce demand for hospital beds.

Two quarantine hotels were being converted into medical facilities under a partnership between the government, Northern Health and the Royal Melbourne Hospital and would start seeing patients from Monday.

“The medi-hotels will provide us with an additional buffer at a time when the number of COVID-19 and associated hospital admissions are increasing,” said acting health minister James Merlino.

“Patients will receive high quality care from healthcare professionals in a hotel setting, making even better use of the resources we have. »

With Jenny Noyes, Melissa Cunningham, Aisha Dow and Timna Jacks

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