Victoria has 183 more cases of COVID-19 as the state announces additional support for vulnerable community members impacted by lockdowns, and points to a possible easing of restrictions for regional areas.
Health authorities reported the additional coronavirus patients on Sunday, adding that 101 of the cases are linked to known cases and outbreaks.
One of the new cases is a truck driver who visited “a number of interstate exposure sites” and has been in isolation for his time in Victoria, COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar told reporters on Sunday.
Sixty per cent of Victorians have received a first dose of COVID vaccination, Premier Daniel Andrews said.
He added that 29,915 doses were administered on Saturday, which is a weekend record.
It came after the state’s chief health officer, Professor Brett Sutton, urged more people on Saturday to get vaccinated in order to hold back a crushing “tsunami” of potential cases.
Hope for the bush
The Premier expects to announce within days that parts of regional Victoria will be able to ease lockdown restrictions.
“The number of cases in regional Victoria are very low except for Shepparton, but our hope would be to have the lockdown off in regional Victoria as soon as possible,” Mr Andrews told reporters.
“That won’t be a return to everyone’s-open-and-maximum-capacity, there will be less than that, but I’m sure both regional Victorians will have greater freedom and regional Victorian businesses will have much greater takings than they do now.”
Mr Andrews said he was yet to receive advice on exactly when the regional restrictions would ease, adding that Shepparton – which has recorded steady case numbers – will not be among the initial round of eased restrictions.
A $27 million food and financial relief package for Victoria’s most vulnerable people was also announced on Sunday by Disability, Ageing and Carers Minister Luke Donnellan.
“The package is very much about putting our arms around those vulnerable people,” he told reporters.
There will be $6 million to help people in financial stress access healthy food. A further $3.7 million will be allocated to “partners” including the Red Cross to help support thousands of families subject to stay-at-home orders.
Culturally diverse communities
Almost $6 million will fund the extension of the Extreme Hardship Support Program to the end of 2021, plus $7.2 million to provide tailored assistance – including vaccination promotion – for culturally diverse communities.
“Delivered by the Red Cross, the program provides support to people on temporary and provisional visas and undocumented migrants facing extreme financial hardship who are ineligible for Commonwealth payments,” a government statement read.
Additional funds will also go to support people at risk in family violence settings, which Mr Donnellan said is an increasing problem during lockdown.
“If you’re in that situation, that’s a reason to get out of your house. And we need to provide the support … and we need to provide the accommodation,” he said.
There are 89 COVID patients in Victorian hospitals, with 24 in intensive care, 13 on ventilators and one of those hospitalised had been double vaccinated.
On Saturday, it was announced that Victorian businesses struggling amid extended lockdowns will share in more than $2.3 billion of government support.
The Victorian government will split $2.34 billion in funding with the federal government to support more than 175,000 businesses over the next four weeks.
Most of the payments will be automatically deposited into the businesses’ bank accounts.