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Second traffic controller infected as Victoria tweaks Pfizer rollout

There are now 180 active cases throughout the state, which Mr Foley said was a reduction of 20 active cases from Friday.

Seven Victorians are in hospital with COVID-19, one needing a ventilator. There were more than 32,700 tests returned on Friday and 19,502 vaccination doses administered.

Vaccination spacing altered

Victoria’s state-run vaccine clinics will also extend the time between first and second doses of Pfizer from three weeks to six weeks.

The changes will not apply to those who have already booked their second Pfizer vaccine, hotel quarantine and border workers, front-line workers, correctional services staff and clients, or Commonwealth vaccinations, such as those administered by GPs.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada had used the longer dosing intervals of Pfizer to ensure more people could get their first dose earlier.

“That does front-load the first doses for Victorians and allows more to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in coming weeks,” he said.

“One dose does give you strong protection, especially against COVID illness and against hospitalisation and that change to six weeks is consistent with the ATAGI guidelines.

“The guidelines do recommend that the second dose of Pfizer should be administered between three and six weeks after the first dose to achieve optimal protection against COVID-19.”

Queensland border closure likely

Professor Sutton warned there was a “strong expectation” the travel rules for those coming from Queensland would change soon, after a snap three-day lockdown was announced for Brisbane and other local government areas on Saturday morning.

He said he would review the information coming from Queensland’s health authorities today.

“I’ve got a pretty strong expectation that I’ll need to make changes for the permit zones in south-east Queensland,” he told reporters on Saturday.

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“There are significant numbers (of cases in Queensland) already and lockdown has been announced.

“It’s concerning to have any COVID cases that you have to chase down when you’ve got settings that allow for transmission to occur pretty readily, but Queensland’s acted entirely in line with the national cabinet strategy.”

The councils now in a snap lockdown until 4pm on Tuesday are Brisbane City; Moreton Bay Regional Council; Gold Coast; Ipswich; Lockyer Valley Regional Council; Logan City; Noosa Shire Council; Redland City; Scenic Rim Regional Council; Somerset Regional Council; and Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

New exposure sites added

Woolworths in Doncaster’s Devon Plaza was added as a potential COVID-19 exposure site late on Friday, after a positive case visited the store on Wednesday between 10.20am and 11.25am.

Anyone who visited the store during that period of time must get tested as soon as possible and quarantine for 14 days.

There were 110 exposure sites listed across Victoria, as of 8am on Saturday.

The potential COVID-19 exposure dates for the Balmoral Apartment Complex in Hawthorn have been extended, after a positive case stayed at the Robinson Road building from Monday to Friday last week.

The building is listed as a tier-2 location, but some residents are required to isolate for a full 14 days.

Victorian health authorities downgraded the travel restrictions on South Australia and Norfolk Island at 11.59pm last night, moving from a “red zone” to an “orange zone”.

Travellers from those areas will need to apply for a specific permit, get tested within 72 hours of arriving in Victoria and stay isolated until they receive a negative result.

Those who arrived from South Australia and Norfolk Island on a red zone permit and have since tested negative have now been released from quarantine.

The federal government announced on Friday that vaccinated Australians would get special rules to avoid some lockdown restrictions once 70 per cent of the eligible adult population have had two vaccine doses.

Following a meeting of national cabinet on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said international border rules would be loosened to allow more people to come home once 70 per cent of the population had been fully inoculated.

Once the national vaccination total hits 80 per cent, broad lockdowns will not be used in major cities, caps on returning Australians will be abolished and all restrictions on vaccinated travellers leaving the country will be removed.

With Abbir Dib, David Crowe and Katina Curtis

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