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Union rejects mandatory jabs for construction workers as man in his 20s dies

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“That’s why we as an industry, us and the employers and the employer organisations have had a massive advertising blitz on promoting vaccination, and we’re all for vaccination, and we are pushing it [and] are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.”

Mr Setka rejected suggestions it has become rare for masks to be worn properly by construction workers.

“That’s incorrect, it’s mandatory on sites, they’ve got to wear masks,” he said.

He said reports of a lack of masks could stem from workers who are out the front of sites having a cigarette.

The debate comes as Victoria recorded 445 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths, including a Hume man in his 20s and a woman in her 80s from Brimbank.

Health Department deputy secretary Kate Matson said the young man died at home and had not been identified as a positive case until a post-mortem was performed.

She said investigations would continue into his death and work was going on to find out who he lived with and to support his contacts.

It is not known if he had underlying health conditions.

The woman in her 80s died in the Royal Melbourne Hospital where she had been admitted as a COVID-19 patient.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Mental Health James Merlino said of the 158 people in hospital with COVID-19, 91 per cent were not vaccinated and 8 per cent were partially vaccinated.

Just one person was fully vaccinated, he said.

He said the state was “inching closer” to its 70 per cent first dose target, needing only another 36,000 first doses to be administered as almost 67.5 per cent of Victorians aged 16 or over have had at least one shot.

Of the new cases, 129 have so far been linked to existing patients and clusters and three cases have emerged in regional areas, including a person on the Surf Coast linked to the V/Line cluster but who had been in isolation for their entire infectious period, a person in Ballarat who works in construction in Melbourne, and a person in Mitchell Shire who works in one of the suburbs of concern.

An outbreak of COVID-19 at a Melbourne school has also grown by four cases, following reports the principal invited parents to send their children to school during lockdowns.

Ms Matson told the state’s COVID press conference this morning that the outbreak at the Fitzroy Community School has reached 33 cases.

The 33 cases were a mixture of students, parents, teachers and household contacts, she said.

It comes as The Age reveals the state’s school regulatory authority is investigating the school for breaching its legal duty to keep children safe and Mr Merlino called the principal’s actions “irresponsible”.

“We’ve got more than 2200 schools in Victoria, that’s more than 1 million students. Imagine if every single principal was as irresponsible as this one, imagine that,” he said.

“Imagine the case numbers, imagine the hospitalisations if every single principal was as irresponsible as this one.”

More than 500 of the state’s total active cases are children under nine, and 85 per cent of the 3799 active cases are people aged under 60.

Of Victoria’s active cases:

  • 563 are under nine years of age.
  • 647 are aged 10 to 19.
  • 906 are in their 20s.
  • 603 are in their 30s.

Of the 158 currently in hospital with COVID, 45 are in ICU and 23 are on a ventilator.

Mr Merlino said 91 per cent were not vaccinated.

Mr Merlino announced the state will be spending another $22 million to provide pop-up mental health services with 90 clinicians, opening from the end of September.

Professor Pat McGorry praised increased mental health spending.

Professor Pat McGorry praised increased mental health spending. Credit:Chris Hopkins

Mental health expert Pat McGorry said young people are being turned away daily from emergency departments due to hospitals being overwhelmed, a situation exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.

“The people that are really suffering at the moment are young people,” Professor McGorry said.

“It’s an urgent problem and I think the government’s announcement today recognises the urgency of the situation.”

The Department of Health said 42,694 test results came back in the 24 hours to midnight on Monday.

The latest outbreak has peaked at 473 daily cases announced on Monday.

There are now 3799 active cases in the state, of which about 13 per cent have been linked to the construction industry.

On Monday, Victorian Treasurer and Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas warned that the construction industry’s permitted worker status was not guaranteed, following reports of people working maskless.

“We’ll do everything that we can to ensure that the construction industry can continue in a COVID-safe way, but I have to say this … employers, unions are on notice. We’ve had significant transmission on building sites, and we simply can’t afford not to act if that continues to grow,” Mr Pallas said.

Nick Brown, co-founder of construction company Icon and the current managing director of Riversdale Co, said mandatory vaccinations will have to be accepted.

“I think that everybody will accept mandatory vaccinations that have to happen. This is one of those industries where you can’t just do things individually,” Mr Brown told 3AW.

But it wouldn’t be without backlash, with Mr Brown saying he has lost workers who refused to get vaccinated for subcontracting jobs.

Mr Brown questioned why rapid antigen testing couldn’t be introduced for multi-storey sites.

“The outbreaks have happened on multi-storey sites where you can have control because you have one entry, you have a lift where people go up; why can’t we have rapid antigen testing?” he said.

“Then you know that everybody that you’re working with, everybody that you come in contact with, you understand doesn’t have COVID.”

Over the coming week, the state government will open 20,000 priority Pfizer and unlimited AstraZeneca bookings for the state’s 320,000 construction workers.

Teams of officials will also be sent to worksites to crack down on compliance with public health rules.

Victoria would become the first jurisdiction in the country to make jabs mandatory for construction workers if it commits to the plan.

Aged care is the only sector where vaccination is compulsory, while NSW has mandated all teachers be vaccinated by November 8.

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It comes as casino giant Crown became the latest company to announce it has plans to introduce mandatory vaccinations for staff and a “no jab, no entry” policy for visitors to its Melbourne, Sydney and Perth resorts.

“This is about protecting every Australian – we want to create a safe environment for people to come to work, and also for our guests to come to enjoy themselves,” Crown Resorts chief executive Steve McCann said in a press release on Tuesday.

The plan follows similar moves from Qantas, Telstra and Virgin Australia to introduce mandatory vaccinations for staff.

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