Scorching temperatures have forced some test sites to close, while calls to extend the holidays in a bid to vaccinate more children before school starts have been dismissed.
Scorching temperatures forced some test sites to close on Friday afternoon as an increase in Omicron infections pushed up the number of cases in Victoria.
As Melbourne sweltering with temperatures of 34C at 12:30 p.m., workers were seen packing a test site in Albert Park due to “extreme heat”.
The Health Department said on Thursday that sites would likely be forced to close during the heatwave, with testing centers operating from outdoor tents being the most likely to be affected.
The temperature inside the tents can rise up to 10 degrees higher than outside in addition to the staff working in full PPE.
At least a dozen other centers were also closed, with the ministry’s website mentioning they were overcapacity.
It comes as Victoria and NSW once again break their daily record for Covid cases as Omicron continues to spread and Delta lingers.
In Victoria, 5,919 new cases and seven deaths were announced on Friday.
This brings the total number of active cases across the state to 28,044.
There are currently 428 people hospitalized with the virus, including 97 in intensive care, including 21 on ventilators.
More than 66,700 Victorians were tested on Thursday.
Health Minister Martin Foley said that a third of those cases had been identified as the Omicron variant.
“This number has increased from very little last week and it is (…) expected that the majority of cases by Omicron very soon,” he said.
Meanwhile, NSW reported a spike of 21,151 new infections, as well as six deaths.
In the northern state, 763 are hospitalized with Covid, with 69 in intensive care.
CHANGE OF SCHOOL START DATE EXCLUDED
School holidays will not be extended in a bid to vaccinate more children before the start of the school year on January 31, despite predictions, only a third of eligible children will be bitten on time.
Health Minister Martin Foley on Friday rejected recommendations from the Victorian President of the Australian Medical Association to extend summer vacation by a week to allow more parents to book doctor’s appointments GPs and state centers, claiming the government was set to roll out Pfizer pediatric vaccines from Jan. 10.
“We are confident that the system we have put in place from Jan. 10 for the 5-11 year old immunization program,” Foley said.
“We want to make sure they are integrated into the immunization program system.”
WADA Victoria President Roderick McCrae said he was proposing a possible start of the 2022 school year to tackle what had become a ‘chamberlain’ pandemic response caused by the shift to rapid antigen testing (RAT), the revised definitions of primary close contacts and the reluctance of general practitioners to open vaccination appointments before the arrival of pediatric doses from Europe.
“Everything seems more and more chaotic,” said Mr. McCrae.
“I estimate that about a third of this age group would have received a dose of the vaccine at the start of the school year.”
“(The delay) would include the opening of schools, because it’s not just the children, it’s the school staff, which also has an impact.”
There are approximately 578,000 Victorian children between the ages of five and 11 who can be vaccinated starting January 10.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: â€œWe are scaling up our immunization program to provide 300,000 doses of vaccine each week in support of the Commonwealth program – by opening immunization centers, recruiting and training people. staff, and getting vaccines to where they are needed most. “
â€œWith the launch of the first pediatric vaccines on January 10, we are working with Victoria Health Services to make vaccination a positive experience for our children aged 5 to 11, regardless of age, ability or background. “
‘INCREDIBLY SIGNIFICANT’ TEST RULES
Business groups and industry leaders have backed a major overhaul of Covid’s testing and isolation rules designed to keep the nation on the move.
State and Territory leaders, along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, agreed on Thursday to restrict the definition of close contact to those who live with or have spent more than four hours in a home or accommodation with a confirmed case .
The major change – which took effect in Victoria, New South Wales, ACT, South Australia and Queensland at midnight – is expected to free tens of thousands of Australians from isolation and ease pressure on besieged test networks.
In another important change, standard PCR tests will be reserved for contacts who show symptoms of Covid, or those who return a positive rapid antigen test (RAT).
All close contacts should undergo a rapid test and self-isolate for a week, regardless of the result. A negative RAT is required on the sixth day to come out of isolation.
The changes also mean that those interviewed at exhibition sites – such as malls or cafes – will not be required to self-isolate.
In a victory for families, those potentially exposed in daycares and schools will not be quarantined.
The Herald Sun understands that the Victorian government – which oversees the state’s testing regime – will implement the changes in full, but finalized its new contact tracing policy and parameters on Thursday evening.
The changes will ease current pressures on the state’s pressurized PCR testing network, with Mr Morrison urging only people who have returned a positive RAT and their symptomatic contacts to join queues at testing sites.
â€œIf you don’t meet that definition of close contact, then you don’t have to be in that line,â€ he said.
â€œYou should go home. Go to the beach, go do whatever you wanna do. Read a book in the park. Follow all the normal and common sense things you would do, watch your symptoms, follow safe Covid practices, make sure you have reserved for your encore, do all of those kinds of things – but you don’t have to be in that row.
Morrison said the revised definitions were part of a major “shift” in the way Australia has responded to the pandemic.
â€œI know it’s a little different from what you’ve heard over the past two years. It is the change of speed. This is the reset, â€he said. â€œDealing with Delta is very different from dealing with Omicron. “
As Victorian announced on Tuesday that it had ordered 34 million rapid tests and the federal government increased the national stock, many chemists and supermarkets had sold.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said: â€œAustralians want to be tested to keep loved ones safe, but with queues for hours and unaffordable rapid antigen testing they cannot. It is a failure of the leadership of Scott Morrison and of this government.
Coronavirus cases are increasing across Australia, with the country recording more than 20,000 new cases for the first time in a single day on Thursday.
But Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it “is becoming very clear now” that Omicron is a less severe variant.
The significant policy change was praised by major business groups, who said the nationally consistent approach signaled a more stable and certain year 2022.
Business Council executive director Jess Wilson said the changes would help limit the economic damage and uncertainty caused by Omicron.
Victoria Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said the new approach would have an “incredibly significant” impact on the state, adding: “We look forward to companies getting stronger at the minute we reach 2022. “
Small Business Australia chief Bill Lang said: “Hopefully everyone sticks to the plan as it is a positive step forward and will give more confidence to small businesses in the sense that their staff will not be forced to isolate themselves unnecessarily “.