The nation’s first dedicated COVID-19 vaccination bus will be launched in regional Victoria, as hopes rise the Shepparton outbreak is coming under control.
Goulburn Valley Health has announced the bus, a collaboration with operator Dysons, will travel across the region from early September administering both Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs.
Greater Shepparton, Moira Shire, Benalla Shire, Strathbogie Shire, Mitchell Shire, Mansfield Shire, Murrindindi Shire and Campaspe Shire are among the areas set to get a visit from “Jabba the bus”.
The bus, which has three pods and is disability-friendly, will aid efforts to break down barriers regional Victorians face to getting the coronavirus jab, including geographical distance and access to transport.
“The vaccination bus will help us reach isolated communities and enable people to be vaccinated close to where they live,” GV Health chief executive Matt Sharp said in a statement on Friday.
It comes after another two COVID-19 cases linked to the Shepparton outbreak were reported on Friday, taking the cluster to 128.
Across Victoria there were another 208 COVID infections in all, mostly in Melbourne.
The death was also reported of a man in his 60s. He is the third to die in Victoria’s latest coronavirus outbreak.
In the Shepparton region, 6271 people came forward for day 13 testing on Thursday, in what is the expected peak for the outbreak in central Victoria.
“We will have those day 13 tests over the next day or so,” COVID commander Jeroen Weimar said.
“There is some work to do in the coming days to complete that process, but I am hoping to see significant reduction in primary close contacts in Shepparton over the next day or two.”
Mr Weimar is confident the Shepparton outbreak will be snuffed out, so long as the remaining infected cases and their close contacts continue to follow isolation orders.
“Every time we’ve seen those defined clusters we’ve managed to roll them up and extinguish them pretty effectively,” he said.
“Provided people play by the rules, do what is asked of them and call for support when they need it, we can absolutely get things under control.”
The extra health and emergency resources sent to Shepparton to manage the outbreak will become a “template” for how officials tackle “significant levels” of community transmission in regional areas in future, Mr Weimar added.
Premier Daniel Andrews reiterated regional Victoria – apart from Shepparton and its surrounds – could be released from lockdown as early as next week.
In addition, trials allowing vaccinated residents entry into hotels, pubs and restaurants could be on the cards when the regions open up.
“We could do some of those pilots safely in regional Victoria, hopefully, because they will be not in lockdown anymore,” Mr Andrews said.
“Today is not the day for those announcements.”