Victorian teachers and childcare workers will have to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before they return to work.
Education Minister James Merlino said on Wednesday all staff at schools and childcare services will have to have their first shot by October 18 or have a booking within a week of that date.
They will need to be fully vaccinated by November 29.
“Children under 12 do not have access to a vaccine. So we have to protect our kids, both from contracting the virus and also transmitting the virus when they go home to their families,” Mr Merlino said.
The update came as Victoria’s local COVID cases climbed to 628 on Wednesday.
There were also three more deaths – a woman in her 50s from Wyndham, a man in his 70s from Wyndham and a man in his 80s from Darebin, all in Melbourne. Sixteen people have now died in Victoria’s current Delta outbreak.
In other developments in Victoria, lockdown will end in the regional city of Ballarat at midnight on Wednesday.
“The public health team feel they have that outbreak contained, and thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the residents who came out in droves to get tested and followed lockdown rules,” Mr Merlino said.
Ballarat was locked down last week after a cluster of cases emerged in several households. It will return to the same COVID restrictions as the rest of regional Victoria.
The same applies to the coastal town of Point Lonsdale, which had been locked down as part of the City of Great Geelong this week. Mr Merlino said residents of the southern Victorian town would be able to follow the same rules as in the neighbouring Borough of Queenscliffe, which has not been in lockdown.
On the education developments, he said all government school staff will be entitled to half a day of paid time off to get vaccinated.
“Anyone who works on-site at schools or early childhood settings, they will not be able to work on site if they are not vaccinated,” Mr Merlino said.
He said a survey of 33,000 teachers found 75 per cent were already fully vaccinated.
Year 12 students will be the first to return to face-to-face learning in Victoria on October 5. A staggered return of other years will start with prep to year 2s on October 18.
The remaining year levels will be able to return on October 26 but only year 7 and year 11s will be able to attend five days a week.
The Victorian government will spend $190 million to make sure schools are properly ventilated by the start of term four, including the rollout of 51,000 ventilators.
Some $60 million will be spent on installing shade sails at 2149 schools to create more outdoor learning spaces.
“We do not want to return to school and have thousands of children positive with COVID, getting sick and hundreds in hospital, or worse – that is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Mr Merlino said.
“We also know that Delta is going nowhere. This will be with us for some time.”
A Ventilation Technical Advisory Panel will be established to undertake further risk assessments of other environments including early childhood settings and youth justice facilities.