News Coronavirus Vic COVID commander, restrictions to exit

Vic COVID commander, restrictions to exit

Victoria COVID-19
Victoria's pandemic declaration is set to expire in the middle of winter and it may not be extended. Photo: AAP
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Both a prominent Victorian health figure and COVID-19 restrictions are on their way out as the state’s pandemic management moves into a new era.

Jeroen Weimar will step down as the state’s COVID-19 response commander at the end of April.

The former VicRoads and Public Transport Victoria chief executive was appointed to the role in July 2020, and co-ordinated testing, tracing and vaccination schemes.

He fronted dozens of COVID-19 news conferences to share key public health messaging both in and out of lockdowns.

The Health Department thanked Mr Weimar for his contribution and confirmed its dedicated COVID-19 response team will continue as part of the wider public health team.

It comes as Premier Daniel Andrews said he is keen to dump the last vestiges of Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions within months.

Victoria’s pandemic declaration was extended by three months to July 12, allowing for the ongoing enforcement of COVID-19 measures such as mask and vaccine mandates.

Although the declaration is due to expire in the middle of winter, Mr Andrews is open to the possibility of letting it lapse.

“I don’t know what independent advice I’m going to get in the days leading up to the 12th of July. It’s my hope that we don’t need that (pandemic declaration),” he said on Thursday.

“Or we need something less than that, or we need some other arrangement. That would be terrific.

The Andrews government has green-lit sweeping changes to restrictions from 11.59pm on Friday, including scrapping compulsory seven-day isolation for close contacts, mandatory indoor masks for grade 3 to 6 students, and its controversial “vaccinated economy”.

Under the easing rules, patrons will no longer have to prove their vaccination status or check in when entering pubs, restaurants, movie theatres or sports venues.

However, existing double- and triple-dose requirements remain for workers in hospitality, office, construction, healthcare, food distribution, police, emergency service and education settings.

It means unvaccinated Victorians will be able to drink a beer at a pub but not pour one.

Health Minister Martin Foley has not acted on a recommendation from Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to move away from vaccine mandates in favour of workplaces setting their own policies.

He defended the retention of the workforce vaccine mandates for now, crediting them for driving up vaccination rates.

“The position I’ve adopted is to recognise the hard work that Victorians have taken, keep the vaccine arrangements in place … and review them in the coming weeks and months ahead,” Mr Foley told ABC TV on Thursday.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy called on the state government to move on from vaccine mandates for hospitality and construction workers and set an official date for the end of the pandemic declaration.

Victoria recorded another 10,674 COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Thursday.