Victoria Records 1,355 Covid Cases As Melbourne Crowd Tests Reopening Plan | australian politics


Melburnians flocked to shops, concerts and horse racing for the first time in months on Saturday as public health restrictions eased further amid wider adoption of the Covid vaccination.

However, Victoria has recorded 1,355 new locally acquired Covid infections and the deaths of 11 Victorians aged 65 to 85.

Covid state commander Jeroen Weimar announced the figures on Saturday, saying he was convinced double-dose vaccine coverage had reached 80%, given a reporting deadline.

Nationally, the double-dose vaccination rate stands at over 76%, with the threshold of 80% to trigger the third stage of the national reopening plan, which should be reached in less than 10 days.

The death toll from the latest outbreak in Victoria is 293.

Meanwhile, in New South Wales, there were 236 new local cases of Covid on Saturday and three deaths of residents with coronavirus.

The latest deaths included a Newcastle man in his forties and a west Sydney man in his sixties. Both had received a dose of the vaccine and had underlying health problems. A Sydney man in his 80s who died in Liverpool hospital was fully vaccinated but had also been ill before contracting the virus.

People scan a QR code to enter a department store in Melbourne. Photograph: William West / AFP / Getty Images

Deaths statewide since the start of the pandemic now stand at 569.

In the Australian Capital Territory, nine additional cases of Covid have been detected.

The figures came as the president of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Dr Megan Belot, warned that Covid patients in rural hospitals face extended waits to be airlifted to larger hospitals.

Belot, who works in the country of Victoria and was elected to the post last week, said very sick patients were waiting 24 to 48 hours for a flight.

“The reality is that our small rural hospitals are going to be quite busy in the coming months,” she said.

Starting Monday, Victoria and NSW will remove all quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international arrivals, and while Victoria eased travel restrictions between Melbourne and regional areas on Friday evening, NSW residents will have to wait Monday to travel between greater Sydney and the regions.

The border between Melbourne and the regions has now fallen, masks no longer need to be worn outdoors and capacity limits have increased for restaurants, pubs and cafes. Indoor entertainment venues, gyms and retail stores have reopened to fully vaccinated customers.

The relaxation of restrictions in Victoria was marked by a handful of large-scale events, including Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse, where 5,500 people were expected, as well as a concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl where 4,000 people had to come together. Only fully vaccinated participants were allowed.

Weimar – speaking on what was the last of the daily Covid press conferences on Saturday before the Victorian government moved on to releasing key information and statistics through a daily press release – said events at large scale would test Victoria’s plan to reopen, and highlighted the continued need for social distancing even among those fully vaccinated.

Weimar said two-thirds of new cases in Victoria were under 40 and around one-third under 20.

Regarding rapid antigen tests – which are expected to be sold in supermarkets across the country from Monday – Weimar urged people to buy them and keep them at home so they can avoid having to go to a test site and expose yourself to risk.

“Stick them in a drawer at home, if you’re feeling symptomatic you can use the test to reassure yourself a bit more – you’re either okay or maybe not well,” Weimar said.

“It is clear that any positive test with a rapid antigen test must be supported by PCR, but these are tools that are becoming more possible and as we start to move.”

Thirty Covid-19 test sites that were forced to close on Friday due to power outages due to wild weather reopened on Saturday.

“If you couldn’t make it to the nearest test site yesterday, please do so today,” Weimar said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered outside the state parliament on Saturday afternoon after the Victorian government introduced pandemic legislation.

Protesters chanted “kill the bill” and other anti-vaccine warrant messages.

The law was passed in the lower house on Thursday and will give Prime Minister Daniel Andrews the power to declare a pandemic and extend it for three months at a time, for as long as deemed necessary. It will take the support of three crossbenchers to pass the upper chamber.

The federal government said on Saturday it expected a larger share of Covid-19 patients to be treated at home as the vaccination rate in Australia rises and fully vaccinated patients who contract the virus present less severe symptoms.

Racing fans arrive for the Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse.
Racing fans arrive for the Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake / Getty Images

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said lower rates of severe cases and hospitalizations would shift focus to community care, adding that “we know there will be more cases that will be treated in at home because people will be fully vaccinated “.

“They may not require hospitalization, so the balance will change.”

Arriving in Rome for the G20 leaders’ summit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s economy was already showing signs of improvement.

“The scenes in Melbourne as people [are] rushing to retail stores is just another sign that the national plan is opening up our economy as our vaccination rates rise, ”he said.

“Australians are starting to collect the things Covid has taken from them. “

With Australian Associated Press

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