“You can’t just flick a switch,” Mr Andrews said. “We will have clarity for everybody as soon as we can. Today’s just a little bit early for us to do that.”
Mr Andrews said the government had not yet made decisions about whether it might ease more restrictions than planned. While noting there was significant pressure on the hospital system, he said Victoria had about a fifth fewer patients in hospital than NSW did at a similar point and the number of cases and hospitalisations were at the optimistic end of the Burnet Institute modelling that underpinned the reopening.
“I think it’s highly unlikely we’d have backwards steps. I think we’re actually running ahead of time,” he said.
Ms McDonald said the COVID-positive father visited Butterfly ward, the hospital’s neonatal intensive care ward, on Thursday or Friday and notified the hospital after he tested positive on Monday evening.
She said there were 29 babies in the ward when the man visited. Two of the babies were declared tier-1 or close contacts, while the remainder are tier-2 or casual contacts.
All the families of the 29 babies have been contacted and were being tested for COVID-19, Ms McDonald said. So far, none of the babies have tested positive for coronavirus.
Ms McDonald said the hospital usually had about five patients at a time with COVID-19.
“We have negative pressure rooms that the children who are positive for COVID are cared for in, and we have enough negative pressure rooms to deal with the demand that we’ve got at this point in time,” she said.
Last week, child cancer patients and their families at the hospital were asked to isolate for 14 days after an unknowingly infected parent visited the oncology ward. No further cases have been linked to this exposure.
The decision to implement a trial of rapid antigen testing at the Royal Children’s Hospital follows a trial of tests at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. It also comes after the state government announced it would buy more than 2 million rapid tests for Victoria’s health system.
Alfred Health also introduced a trial of rapid antigen testing this week, beginning with radiation oncology patients at The Alfred hospital in Melbourne.
“This step in surveillance screening is part of our effort to keep patients, staff and the wider community safe as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and we’re pleased to be one of the first health services in Victoria to trial this rapid testing model,” an Alfred Health spokesman said.
“The program will be carried out with minimal disruption to our patients, with testing to be undertaken 30 minutes prior to scheduled appointments.”
It takes less than 20 minutes to get a result from the rapid antigen tests.
Ms McDonald said there had been other COVID-19 exposures at the Royal Children’s Hospital during the state’s third wave of infections.
“We know that mums and dads need to see their children, and children need to see their mums and dads, especially when they’re in hospital, but we do need to protect everyone given the rising numbers of COVID in the community,” she said.
“It is a very challenging circumstance to find the balance between allowing mums and dads to come and see their children and spend time with their children … and trying to manage to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.”
Victoria recorded 1571 new local cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 13 deaths, the highest daily death toll in Victoria this year.
Health Minister Martin Foley said 705 people were in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 146 were in intensive care and 92 on a ventilator. He said 87.1 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 60.9 per cent had received two doses.
There were also a record 79,200 COVID-19 tests processed on Tuesday, while 38,072 people received a coronavirus vaccine at a state-run clinic. Victoria now has 19861 active coronavirus cases.
Victorians to be vaccinated at gyms, clubs, cafes
Victorians will now be able to get vaccinated at their local cafe, gym and shopping mall.
Mr Foley said a new local neighbourhood pop-up vaccine program would help to vaccinate dozens in people in two-, three- and four-hour “blitzes”.
“The first of these neighbourhood pop-ups is opening today at Degani Coffee in Mernda Junction in Melbourne’s outer north, with more Degani locations to follow, particularly in our high-risk local government areas that are the subject of our greatest attention,” Mr Foley said.
“These neighbourhood pop-up models are designed to support Victorians to get access to vaccines, Pfizer in particular, in the most convenient, familiar and easy-to-deal-with locations. And equally, in culturally safe and protective locations for those Victorians who might need that further reassurance as to the need to come forward and get vaccinated.”
Mr Foley said the program would be in partnership with the state government, local GPs, community health organisations, St John’s Ambulance and a range of other providers.
People would not have to book in to get a vaccine at the new local hubs, he said.
Pop-ups were also planned for several neighbourhood houses across different communities, as well as at Foundation House, which would offer vaccines to newly arrived migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and “those people who, so far, have been marginalised from the mainstream vaccination progam”.
More than 30 COVID-19 exposures in Victorian schools
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there had recently been more than 30 COVID-19 exposures in the state’s schools.
He said authorities would probably have more to say about isolation protocols for students on Thursday.
“The data on transmission will come through over today and tomorrow and the next day,” Professor Sutton said.
“With a lot of those exposures, you don’t know whether they’ve led to further cases because there’s … an average incubation period of four to six days before new cases might emerge.
“That will be really important data for us to see what the effect of vaccination is for some of those students, what the effect of both the case and a contact [is when] wearing a mask.
“I suspect it’ll really substantially reduce transmission and it will mean that we can have some confidence about kids carrying on in school with their exams, with their studies, without needing to be super-conservative about what our close contact definitions are.”
Hotels, RSL added to regional Victoria’s list of exposure sites
Health authorities identified a number of new COVID-19 exposure sites in regional Victoria late on Tuesday evening.
They were all tier-1 or close contact, and included the Wangaratta RSL and the nearby Pinsent Hotel and The Old ‘N’ Country Tavern.
A farm equipment supplier at Trafalgar in West Gippsland was declared tier 1 on Friday, October 8 between 8am and 4.30pm, while a shower block at the Wakiti Creek Resort at Kotupna was declared a tier 1 site over two days: Tuesday, October 5 and Wednesday, October 6.
The National Hotel Complex at Bendigo was declared a tier 1 site on Monday, October 4 between 6.56pm and 9.30pm, while Bomboras Torquay, on the Surf Coast, was also listed for Wednesday, October 6 between 11.50am and 12.50pm.
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