Victoria has recorded a fresh all-time high of 8577 new daily COVID-19 cases, as demand for rapid antigen tests continues to outstrip supply.
Another three virus-related deaths were also reported by the health department on Monday, which is a public holiday to make up for New Year’s Day falling on Saturday.
The number of Victorian coronavirus patients in hospital care has slightly risen to 491, up 19 on Sunday’s figure and 47 beyond the seven-day average.
Of those, 56 are classified as active ICU cases and 24 are on ventilators.
In total, Victoria is managing 38,118 active COVID-19 cases.
Virus testers processed 44,168 results in the 24 hours to Sunday evening, reflecting another fall in PCR swab rates likely linked to an increased emphasis on rapid antigen testing.
Victorians are struggling to get their hands on RAT kits, with shelves stripped bare at chemists and pharmacies in Melbourne.
Chemist Warehouse chief operating officer Mario Tascone says the retailer is flying in half a million RAT kits every day, but it still isn’t enough to meet current demand.
“They go to the stores and disappear very, very quickly – even with limits (on how many kits a person can buy),” he told Melbourne radio 3AW on Monday.
“So there’s no problem with the flow of stock into stores coming, it’s just the demand. You’ve got to understand – 24 million people want a rapid antigen test. You can’t fill that pipe in a week.”
Mr Tascone said Chemist Warehouse stock levels in Victoria were effectively “down to zilch”, despite most Melbourne stores receiving “healthy” deliveries on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
Most stores are expected to get fresh deliveries of 500 to 600 kits on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.
Mr Tascone said other retailers were feeling the pinch and it would take a few weeks for the system to catch up.
“It’s a perfect storm at the moment,” he said.
The state’s health minister is expected to make an announcement on access to rapid antigen tests later on Monday.
Despite the move toward rapid testing, the PCR testing system also remains under the pump.
At least 29 testing sites across Melbourne were closed as of 10.45 am on Monday after reaching capacity, while more clinics were forced to shut at the weekend due to extreme heat.
One man told AAP he had been waiting four days for his result and was yet to receive it as of 2 pm on Sunday, after taking a PCR test at Melbourne Town Hall on December 29.
He tested positive to two rapid antigen tests and had tried calling the Coronavirus Test Results Hotline a number of times but was told they were too busy to take his call.
Community sampling has shown 76 per cent of all COVID-19 samples collected over the Christmas period are the Omicron variant.