News State Victoria News ‘Challenging’ flu season ahead as Vic rules ease
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‘Challenging’ flu season ahead as Vic rules ease

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Victorians have been warned that flu will likely re-emerge this winter, after two years largely without it. Photo: AAP
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Health authorities are warning Victorians to brace for a “challenging” winter flu season, as most of the state’s COVID rules ease.

Victoria had another 11 deaths and 6580 COVID-19 infections on Friday, made up of 4263 from rapid antigen tests and 2317 from PCR tests.

There are 41,125 active cases in the state, while virus hospitalisations have fallen by 21, with 301 cases in hospital, 38 in ICU and four on ventilators.

The state will ditch its mask mandate in most places from 11.59pm on Friday, with workers no longer urged to base themselves at home.

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar encouraged Victorians to get flu shots, as he warned of a “challenging” flu season ahead.

“Epidemiologists and clinicians are increasingly concerned that we may have quite a challenging flu season, having had a bit of a pass for the last couple of years,” he said on Friday.

“There are, of course, no restrictions left in place, we have seen far lower levels of social distancing.

“We’re getting back to the things we love, and flu will be something that’s going to be very present in our lives over the autumn and winter period.

“Please get your COVID vaccine done, get your third dose done and get your flu shot after that. It’s a really important thing for us all to do.”

Health Minister Martin Foley said the state’s in-home vaccination program will be expanded to include children, particularly those with disabilities or special needs.

Additionally, special pop-up vaccination hubs will be set up at Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Zoo this weekend.

Asked whether isolation rules would be further eased, Mr Foley said that was “under constant review”.

He said the Victorian and NSW governments had requested the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee to review isolation rules for close contacts.

Some 57.6 per cent of Victorian adults have received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Mr Weimar said that meant more than three million Victorians had received a third vaccine dose, including 80 per cent of those aged over 70.

Meanwhile, reforms will soon allow licensed restaurants and cafes to sell alcohol with takeaway meals without applying for a second licence.

The state government said the reforms, which come into effect from next month, will help the hospitality sector carry out its business without any additional fees or red tape.

As part of the changes, bars, hotels, restaurants, and cafes wanting to extend their trading hours from 11pm to 1am will be able to do so automatically, without having to apply for a change to their licence.

Most indoor mask requirements will be scrapped at 11.59pm on Friday, other than when using public transport, taxis, and in airports and hospitals.

Hospitality and retail workers, primary school and early childhood staff, and justice and correctional facility employees must continue wearing masks.

High school students will be able to remove masks in class. Primary school students in grades three to six will still have to wear them for now.

-AAP