Victoria will mandate COVID-19 vaccine boosters for essential workers, indoor dancefloors will close and food supply worker isolation rules are easing, under new state pandemic orders.
The state recorded 34,808 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths on Monday, with hospital admissions rising by 66 to 818 patients, 118 of them in intensive care and 28 on ventilators.
Health Minister Martin Foley says the new orders, which kick in at 11:59 pm on Wednesday, are needed due to rising hospitalisations.
“It is those hospitalisation rates that are the issue of most profound concern for our public health team and for the Victorian community as we deal with this significant Omicron spike,” he told reporters.
The orders demand workers in key sectors — including health and aged care, emergency services and food distribution — get their third dose to continue working.
Those currently eligible for a third dose will be given until February 12 to get it.
Indoor dancefloors at hospitality and entertainment venues will close from midnight on Wednesday to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
Mr Foley said wedding dancefloors are excluded as it is a significant “life event” and guests can easily be tracked down.
Close contact isolation requirements will no longer apply to food supply workers, including those in retail, manufacturing and distribution.
These workers must be asymptomatic, return a negative rapid antigen test and take daily RATs for five days to return to work.
Visitor restrictions will also be applied to hospitals and in aged care settings.
Acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie said one in 40 people living in Victoria have tested positive to COVID-19.
However, with one in five tests coming back COVID-positive, he said “there’s a lot more transmission out there”.
“I think it would not be out of the ballpark to suggest that something like four per cent of the Victorian population has COVID-19 right now,” he said.
“That sounds like a shocking statistic… On the other level we are not seeing that translate into the sort of hospitalisations that we would have back with the first wave.”
He said more than half of the state’s active infections were in healthy people aged between their 20s and 40s.
It comes as the vaccine rollout for children aged between five and 11 has been marred by supply issues on the first day of the program.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Victorian chair Anita Munoz said supply was coming in “sporadically” with some GPs given 100 doses a week and others 100 per fortnight.
“That is, really, terribly inadequate numbers for general practices to vaccinate kids,” she told AAP.
She said the RACGP had given “a lot of feedback” to the federal government about how to ensure the latest vaccine rollout would run smoothly and efficiently.
“What we really wanted to avoid was repeating any of the mistakes we needed to learn from last year. I am disappointed that these kinds of issues are being repeated,” she said.
The head of Australia’s vaccine rollout Lieutenant General John Frewen denied there were supply problems and encouraged parents to book through pharmacies and state hubs if they cannot get in with a doctor.
Mr Foley said there were 40,000 appointments available to children at state hubs, and that issues with GP or pharmacy supplies were for the Commonwealth.