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Masks are dropping in the east as COVID death toll continues to creep higher

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NSW and Victoria have reported 26 coronavirus-related deaths and a combined 12,891 new cases.

It comes at the start of a weekend when mask mandates have lifted and dance floors have reopened across the eastern states after several jurisdictions announced an easing to restrictions from Friday.

In NSW, Victoria and the ACT mask wearing is still required in high risk settings such as public transport, aged care facilities, airports and hospitals.

There are exceptions for some school students in Victoria and the ACT, who will still have to keep their masks on for now.

Queensland is set to ease its mask rules and density limits next week.

Mask mandates remain in WA, Tasmania, SA and the NT.

The eased restrictions come as a new vaccine is approved for use in Australia, specifically for people who haven’t been able to have a dose of existing vaccines.

Evusheld has been granted approval for immunocompromised people who aren’t likely to have an adequate immune response to a COVID-19 vaccine.

It can also be used for people who currently can’t get a COVID-19 vaccine due to a history of severe reactions to immunisation.

People aged 12 and over and who weigh more than 40 kilograms can access the vaccine.

NSW reported 7017 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday morning while Victoria recorded 5874.

There are 1130 people in hospital with COVID-19 in NSW, with 59 in intensive care, while Victoria has 281, with 43 people in ICU.

Of the 26 virus-related deaths reported in Australia so far, 11 were in NSW and 15 in Victoria.

Indigenous health services are also getting an immediate funding boost which federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said was a result of lessons learned from the pandemic.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services will get a $54.7 million cash boost, but an announced 3 per cent funding per year funding increase over four years won’t kick in until July 2023.

“The ongoing pandemic has once again shown how critical the ACCHS sector is in delivering health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Mr Hunt said.

Australia reported 28 new COVID-19 deaths on Friday, the bulk in Victoria while the country recorded 24,739 new cases with NSW marking the most.

Friday’s figures included 1043 in WA, it’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic coming less than week before it reopens its borders on March 3.

-AAP

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