Victoria has recorded 34,808 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. Given the current rate of COVID-19 hospitalisations and cases, a number of important but proportionate changes will be introduced to further protect our highest-risk health care and hospitality settings—and key workforces—from the risk of outbreaks and super-spreader events.
Across Victoria, over 93 per cent of people aged 12-years and over, are now fully vaccinated with 94 per cent having received their first dose and 17 percent of adults having now received a booster shot.
Under new pandemic orders coming into place at 11:59pm Wednesday 12 January, workers in key sectors who are already required to be fully vaccinated must get their third dose before being permitted to work onsite.
This will apply to healthcare, aged care, disability, emergency services, correctional facility, quarantine accommodation and food distribution workers. Workplaces must sight and record proof of vaccination.
Workers eligible for a third dose on or before Wednesday 12 January will have until Saturday 12 February to get their vital third dose. Workers not yet eligible for a third dose will be required to get it within three months and two weeks of the deadline to receive their second mandatory dose.
This means residential aged care workers must receive their third dose by 1 March, and health care workers by 29 March. Disability, quarantine accommodation, correctional facilities, emergency services, and food distribution workers will need to receive their third dose by 12 March.
Food distribution workers includes manufacturing, warehousing and transport (freight/port) workers involved in food distribution. Retail supermarket staff are not included in the mandate.
Victorians in these priority cohorts were among the first required to have their first and second dose vaccination during 2021. The mandatory vaccination requirement will not apply to workers who have a valid medical exemption.
This order responds to the increased risks of COVID-19 exposure to critical workers, their proximity to vulnerable people, the higher risk of the virus spreading in their workplace and the need to protect access to essential goods and services.
All Victorians continue to be encouraged to get their third dose as soon as they become eligible, an official press release said.
As a sensible step to reduce the risks of the virus spreading, indoor dancefloors within hospitality and entertainment venues must close from 11:59pm 12 January. Venues can still operate and there are no changes to the density settings currently in place.
This change reflects settings already in place in other states, including New South Wales. Indoor dancefloors at weddings will be permitted, but wedding hosts and guests should still consider the risks of dancefloors and choose to locate them outdoors if possible.
The strong recommendations that people work from home if they are able and that patrons in hospitality and entertainment venues opt for seated service will continue. It is recommended that people visiting these venues who can access Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) should use them before attending.
In addition, further visitor restrictions will be applied to hospitals and aged care settings—reflecting the vulnerable nature of patients and residents in these facilities.
Residents at aged care centres will continue to be permitted up to five visitors per day, but visitors must return a negative RAT result before entering. If no RATs are available at the facility, residents will be permitted no more than two visitors.
Visitors in hospitals must have received two doses of the vaccine or must return a negative RAT result before entering. Adult visitors who are not fully vaccinated must wear an N95 mask during their visit. Standard face masks continue to be mandated for children aged 8 and above.
While test requirements upon arrival remain unchanged, fully vaccinated international arrivals will no longer need to get a second PCR or RAT five to seven days after their arrival. This change is in line with the decision of National Cabinet last week and recognises the high levels of COVID-19 transmission currently in the community.
To ensure Victorians can continue to access essential food supplies, workers in the manufacturing, distribution or packaging of food and beverages including retail supermarket workers may be exempted from close contact isolation requirements in order to attend work from 11.59pm Wednesday 12 January, if it is necessary for continuity of operations and other options have been exhausted.
To mitigate risks, exempted workers must be asymptomatic, undertake daily RATs for five days and return a negative result prior to attending work. They can’t enter shared break areas, and employers are asked to facilitate solo break time.
In addition, face coverings must be worn, using N95/P2 respirators if possible. Both the worker and workplace must consent to the worker’s return.
This new close contact isolation exemption for asymptomatic food distribution workers is similar to the arrangements already in place for critical healthcare workers.
New regulations for Rapid Antigen Tests
Under new rules, health authorities now recognise a positive result from a Rapid Antigen test indicates a person has COVID-19.
It is NO longer required to have a standard PCR test if a positive result comes from using the RAT kit at home.
If positive, it is required that people immediately isolate for 7 days from the day of the test.
However, Victorians MUST immediately report a positive rapid antigen test result to the Department of Health through an online form or by phone.
Reporting a positive RAT will allow the infected person to access care, information and financial support.
People can still go to a GP or testing clinic if they cannot purchase the home RAT kit, if they have symptoms or are a close contact.
Since the emergence of the Omicron variant, Victoria’s standard testing capacity has been hit by a surge in cases, so the new rule will reduce testing queues and waiting times.
It also means PCR tests can be prioritised for critical workers such as nurses and people in vulnerable settings.
Staying Safe COVID Regulations
Victorian health authorities continue to look at ‘common sense’ restrictions as case numbers continue to rise across the state.
There is a density quota of one person per two square metres indoors at hospitality venues, including restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs, as well as other entertainment venues including gaming venues.
Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley said 40 percent of cases being recorded are people aged in their 20s, and a significant proportion from hospitality and entertainment environments.
Vaccinated people continue to have access to hospitality venues, hairdressers and beauty therapy, sporting facilities and tourism.
Unvaccinated people are limited to retail stores, takeaway food and outdoor community sport events.
Face masks are required indoors (except at home) for everyone aged 8 years and above at all times, unless an exception applies.
What to do if you test positive using a RAT
If receiving a positive Rapid Antigen test result, immediately report it to the Department of Health.
Reports can be made over the phone on 1800 675 398. Press zero (0) if you need an interpreter.
Reports can also be made online at coronavirus-dot-VIC-gov-dot-A-U forward slash REPORT.
Immediately isolate for 7 days from the day of the test and tell your contacts you have COVID-19.
Your household and other close contacts must also then isolate for 7 days and take their own tests.
Your social and other contacts must get tested if they have symptoms.
You must also inform your workplace and/or education facility that you have COVID-19.
(Media release & news provided by the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council, NEMBC MEDIA)
Victoria has recorded 34,808 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 & 2 deaths. Given the current rate of COVID-19 hospitalisations & cases, a no. of important & proportionate changes will be introduced to further protect our highest-risk. #TheIndianSunhttps://t.co/6QVzktQ74k
— The Indian Sun (@The_Indian_Sun) January 10, 2022