Victoria records 40,127 new COVID-19 cases, 21 deaths

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Victoria has recorded 40,127 new COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths, ahead of new vaccine mandates for critical workers, and sweeping changes to virus protocols coming into effect at midnight.

Wednesday’s figures bring the number of active coronavirus cases in the state to at least 209,715. Of the new active cases, 21,693 were detected through PCR testing, while 18,434 were self-reported from rapid antigen tests.

With isolation changes coming for critical workers, business groups are calling on some to get priority access to rapid antigen tests. Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

The number of people in hospital with the virus has risen to another all-time daily high for Victoria, with 946. The previous record, 861, was set on Tuesday.

There are 112 people in the intensive care unit, and 31 people on a ventilator.

Ambulance Victoria has been struck by two “code red” alerts in the space of a week because of the mounting pressure on the state’s health workforce. At least seven of every 10 calls to Victoria’s triple-zero service during some shifts in recent weeks were not answered on time.

NSW has reported 34,759 new COVID-19 cases.

New pandemic orders coming into effect in Victoria at 11.59pm on Wednesday will significantly change COVID-19 protocols for critical workers, visitors to aged care facilities and hospitals, and hospitality venues.

Coronavirus booster vaccines will be mandatory for critical workers including those in health and aged care, disability, emergency services, correctional facilities, hotel quarantine, and food distribution.

Workers already eligible for their booster shot will have until February 12 to receive it, while those not yet eligible will have three months and two weeks from their second-dose deadline.

Workers in food and beverage manufacturing, packing, and distribution – including retail supermarket workers – will be allowed to keep going to work after becoming a close contact of a COVID-19 case under the new orders.

Farm groups have called for workers in food supply chain companies to get priority access to the rapid antigen tests, which remain in short supply.

Under the new orders aged care centres will need to request RAT results from those who visit their residents. A cap of five daily visitors per resident remains in force, but if a visitor does not provide a negative RAT result their host will be limited to two visitors.

Visitors to hospitals will have to prove they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine before they enter, or, if they are not fully vaccinated, return a negative rapid antigen test and wear an N95 mask.

Indoor dance floors at hospitality and entertainment venues will also close at 11.59pm, with the exception of those at weddings.

Authorities continue to encourage Victorians to receive their booster doses as soon as possible. The proportion of the state’s population who are over 18 and have received the shot stands at 18 per cent.

Another 24,547 Victorians rolled up their sleeves to get a COVID-19 vaccine at a state-run clinic on Tuesday, while 61,630 coronavirus tests were processed at PCR sites.

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