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Victoria mulling ‘refinements and adjustments’ to COVID rules and restrictions

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With thousands of daily COVID cases, the case for QR-code tracking has weakened. Photo: TND Photo: TND
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Victoria’s COVID-19 rules are up for a sweeping review, with Premier Daniel Andrews focusing on check-in obligations and QR codes in particular.

“The use of QR codes is under very active review at the moment, as are all of our rules, and we hope to make some announcements quite soon,” the Premier told reporters on Sunday.

“Now that we’ve hit the peak of Omicron, now those cases are coming down, we do have some room to make some refinements and adjustments.”

Mr Andrews said Victoria aimed to be in lockstep with NSW on rules and the state’s northern neighbour was planning to ease check in requirements by the end of February.

Queensland has already scrapped check-ins at venues where proof of vaccination is not required, such as supermarkets, retail outlets, hairdressers and gyms.

“We don’t have many rules on at the moment but we can further streamline those,” Mr Andrews said, adding that density limits would also be reviewed.

Victorian Liberal-Nationals opposition MP David Southwick urged the government to make the changes.

“We are now in the third year of the pandemic – it’s ridiculous that small businesses are still facing thousands of dollars in fines for a system that is now effectively redundant,” he said in a statement.

Eighteen additional deaths

Victoria on Sunday reported 18 COVID-19 deaths and 7223 infections.

Of the new cases revealed, 4859 were detected through rapid antigen tests and 2364 via PCR lab testing.

Health authorities say the state is now managing a touch under 55,000 active cases in total. There are 465 people in Victorian hospitals, 22 fewer than the day before.

Of these, 181 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care, 17 of them currently requiring ventilation.

Victoria on Saturday achieved a 50 per cent triple vaccination rate for eligible recipients and Mr Andrews encouraged people to keep lining up for a booster.

With hospitalisations having halved since late January, the Victorian government has moved to lift a ‘code brown’ pandemic alert issued for the health system.

The unprecedented alert was implemented in January as hospitals and health services came under increasing pressure due to the Omicron wave and saw urgent services further cut back and staff leave postponed.

The measure has been in place for more than three weeks and will be lifted at midday on Monday.

“Next week is the fourth week and we’re confident that while still going to be very, very busy that we are in a position to safely lift the code brown alert,” Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters on Friday.

Non-urgent elective surgery will also be ramped up from this week, allowing private hospitals in metropolitan areas to perform up to half of all elective surgery and those in regional Victoria can do 75 per cent.

All other public hospitals in Melbourne will continue to be restricted to emergency and urgent elective surgery, with the health minister to consider further easing next week.

-AAP