News Coronavirus Victoria’s new COVID cases drop to 860, childcare centres sent rapid antigen tests

Victoria’s new COVID cases drop to 860, childcare centres sent rapid antigen tests

Victorian childcare centres have been sent rapid antigen tests to help identify children who are close contacts. Photo: AP
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Victoria has confirmed another 860 local COVID-19 infections and five people have died, as childcare services in the state are sent rapid tests to help children identified as close contacts return sooner.

Victoria is managing 17,518 total active cases, the health department said on Monday.

It was the second day the state’s case numbers have dropped below 1000 – after 905 on Sunday – and the lowest daily tally since late September.

There are 378 virus patients in Victorian hospitals. They include 78 in intensive care actively infected with COVID and 71 who have been cleared. There are 48 people on ventilators.

There were 48,104 tests processed in the 24-hour period, with 5030 people were vaccinated.

Victoria has reached 87 per cent double-vaccinated in those aged over 12.

It is expected to reach its next target, 90 per cent, in just over a week. That will trigger the next major easing of virus rules across the state.

The latest figures come as young children who become primary close contacts will be allowed to return to childcare after seven days, as long as they perform rapid COVID tests.

The state government will distribute free rapid antigen testing kits to kindergartens and long daycare centres this week to help manage virus outbreaks in early childhood services.

From Monday, eligible kindergartens and long daycare services have been invited to opt into a program to receive at-home rapid antigen tests for kids identified as primary close contacts.

This will halve quarantine for those children to seven days, with kids allowed to return to early childhood services after quarantine if they test negative to the virus in a PCR test on day six.

To attend childcare again, children must return negative rapid antigen tests each day they attend a service, from days eight to 14.

Families must report the test results to their childcare provider each morning.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s chief health officer has criticised national cabinet’s COVID-19 roadmap for failing to mention what will happen in the pandemic “recovery phase”.

Brett Sutton and health economist Stephen Duckett have penned an editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia, which was published on Monday.

“Disappointingly, the [national cabinet] roadmap includes no explicit recovery phase; it as if we could all soon heave a sigh of relief and simply move on,” the article says.

Recovery would allow planning for workforce responses, prepare for worker burnout and staff recovery.

It would also include lessons from the pandemic across government, hospitals and primary care services, to discover “what went well, what went badly”.

Professor Sutton and Professor Duckett called for the federal government to share in the health costs caused by the pandemic and said decision makers should spend early 2022 “assessing and developing strategies” to respond to problems brought on by the pandemic.

They included health system delays, greater disadvantage, mental health impact, long COVID and health worker burnout.

Monday also signals a vaccine deadline for residential aged-care workers, who must be fully vaccinated against the virus to continue working.