“We need to continue to work to run these cases down to the lowest possible number,” the Premier said, reiterating that Australia and the state could deal with a pandemic of the unvaccinated, but only if the proportion of those who weren’t vaccinated was small.
Mr Andrews was adamant he wouldn’t be opening schools tomorrow, but said detailed plans for the eased restrictions needed to be finalised through the afternoon and evening.
“I’m not opening schools tomorrow, but we will have more to say about schools and about what might be possible.”
He said he would also have more to say about senior students after the government said last week that it would prioritise getting year 12 students vaccinated ahead of their exams in October.
Mandates for worker vaccines
There may also be further vaccine mandates for some workers.
“But again, we want to do that, respectfully; we want to talk to unions, talk to workers,” Mr Andrews said.
He noted vaccinations had already been made mandatory for aged care workers but said he did not think it was appropriate to lock down people who were not vaccinated.
“How would you enforce that? That becomes incredibly difficult.”
He said there were a number of motivating factors that should encourage people to choose vaccinations, and vaccine passports had already been briefly mentioned in national cabinet.
“I’ll make a bold prediction, you won’t be getting a visa to too many countries if you haven’t been double-dosed.
“I think it’ll extend all the way through not just to getting on a plane, but I expect it will extend to booking a restaurant, booking a seat at the footy, the cricket, going to the theatre, doing all sorts of things.
“We have ‘no jab, no play’ in our childcare centres now, because it works.”
Mobile vax vans to be rolled out
Mobile COVID-19 vaccination vans will be rolled out in parts of Victoria.
Mr Andrews said he didn’t have a timeframe on when they would be deployed, but vans were on hand and being matched with the appropriate staff.
Victorian Aboriginal Health Services has been in talks with the state government about using the vans, and Mr Andrews flagged the City of Hume in Melbourne’s outer north-west as one place where the vans would be likely to go.
“Yes, there will be mobile vans and mobile services, pop-up services as well,” Mr Andrews said on Tuesday. “Whether it’s pop-ups … [or] faith-based … trusted [environments] … they’ll be targeted in the communities where the vaccination rates are lower to try and get those numbers up.”
The mobile vaccination plan comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the arrival of 500,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine earlier than expected as part of a swap deal with Singapore.
Under pro rata distribution agreements, Victoria could expect to receive about 25 per cent of the doses.
Where today’s cases are
Of Tuesday’s new cases, 45 are linked to the state’s current outbreaks, and authorities are investigating the acquisition source for the remaining 31 cases.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said 36 of Tuesday’s cases had been in isolation for their infectious periods and 45 were linked to existing cases.
Tuesday’s cases were reported from nearly 50,850 COVID-19 tests. No cases were recorded in the state’s hotel quarantine.
How today’s 45 linked cases fit into existing outbreaks
- 17 are linked to the MyCentre Child Care centre in Broadmeadows.
- Nine are in Shepparton in regional Victoria (all were in quarantine).
- Three are linked to the Millers Junction shopping centre in Altona North.
- One is linked to the Learning Sanctuary in Spotswood.
- One is linked to the St Kilda East outbreak.
- One is linked to a legal office in Melbourne’s outer east.
- One is linked to Al-Taqwa College.
- One is linked to retail warehouses in Fishermans Bend.
- 11 are linked to existing cases, but the existing cases have an unknown acquisition source.
The figures come after Professor Sutton warned on Monday he was not sure whether Victoria could achieve zero COVID-19 cases in the short term.
“We have to do what is feasible,” he said on Monday. “We are not going to achieve the impossible if it becomes impossible.”
ICU doctor: COVID-19 ‘like drowning on dry land’
Dr Stephen Warrillow, director of intensive care at Austin Health, said the sickest patient he had seen with coronavirus was not elderly, but in their 40s.
“It’s like drowning on dry land. You just cannot get enough oxygen; you cannot get enough air, no matter how much you try [with COVID-19],” Dr Warrillow said.
“The relentless effort to breathe is overwhelming until the point where the patient simply can’t safely maintain that any more and we have to put a breathing tube down into their throat.
“To do that to a human being is a big deal.”
Dr Warrillow said COVID-19 patients almost invariably had a longer stay in hospital than other patients, and longer stays in the intensive care unit.
He said if hospital staff were overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit, someone was inevitably going to feel the impact of that.
“That necessarily impacts on our ability to care for other patients – that includes patients who might need major elective heart surgery for example, or major semi-elective cancer surgery.”
He said staff were tired and “there’s a finite amount of time that people can keep this up”.
COVID-19 exposure site list expands
Fire Rescue Victoria confirmed on Tuesday morning that two of its sites – Thomastown fire station and the Northern District Office at Bundoora – had been exposed to COVID-19.
A spokesman for the service said employees who attended the sites were following Health Department instructions – including getting tested and quarantining for 14 days – but all of its fire stations were still operational.
“The sites have undergone deep cleaning and disinfecting,” the spokesman said. “Neither site is accessible to members of the public.”
Health authorities also identified StarTrack at Shepparton as a tier 1 site on Tuesday, and declared various venues tier 2 sites, including a fruit and vegetable shop at Shepparton and Australia Post at Collingwood.
Health authorities identified nearly 150 new exposure sites on Monday, including several tier 1 or close-contact sites.
Alpass & Associates law firm at Kilsyth in Melbourne’s east was declared a tier 1 site on Monday evening, as was Monash Ultrasound for Women at Mulgrave.
Authorities warned there would also be some close contacts associated with a school construction site in Port Melbourne, as well as with Woolworths Northland in Preston, and an apartment building in Brunswick.
Chapel Street calls for a double-vaccinated re-opening plan
Businesses in the Chapel Street precinct are calling on the Victorian government to detail how they will be able to reopen safely to double-vaccinated Melburnians.
Chapel Street precinct general manager Chrissie Maus said: “Our businesses are ready and willing to jump through any hoop to reopen safely.
“The sooner we do so, the better for livelihoods and everyone’s mental health and wellbeing,” she said.
Ms Maus said NSW had the right mix, learning to live with the virus while dangling a “freedom carrot” to supercharge COVID-19 vaccination rates.
Precinct chair Justin O’Donnell said that hair and beauty salons in the precinct could, for example, be controlled environments and abide by strict COVID-safe requirements. “These safety models are already used overseas,” he said.
“[The] Chapel Street precinct fully supports vaccinated people to have more access to services and for the non-vaccinated to take precautions and or stay at home until vaccinated.”
In the past 24 hours, more than 32,160 Victorians received their COVID-19 vaccine doses.
With Clay Lucas and Craig Butt
Stay across the most crucial developments related to the pandemic with the Coronavirus Update. Sign up to receive the weekly newsletter.