Thousands of Victorian students have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning to classrooms, as the state government considers whether to extend school surveillance testing.
Under the state’s back-to-school plan for the first four weeks of term one, students and teachers are required to use rapid antigen tests twice weekly to keep cases in check.
Education Minister James Merlino said another 607 students reported they were positive at the weekend, taking the infection tally for the first week of school past 4500.
“It’s better to support those many hundreds of students and teachers than have one million students at home remote learning,” he told reporters on Monday.
The total number of teachers and other education staff to test positive is in the hundreds, but yet to be finalised.
Mr Merlino confirmed the government was yet to make a call on possibly continuing the RAT regime beyond four weeks, which would require more than the 14 million already delivered to schools.
“We’re in week two of term one. We’ll make those decisions over the next couple of weeks in discussions with our public health team,” he said.
Victoria recorded 8275 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths on Monday, as some non-urgent surgeries resume in the state.
The fresh infections, which include 5967 results from RATs and 2308 from PCR tests, dropped Victoria’s active case total below 60,000 for the first time since January 5.
There are currently 638 virus patients in Victorian hospitals, 14 fewer than on Sunday. Of these, 72 are in intensive care and 26 are in need of ventilation.
Non-urgent category two and three elective surgery resumed at 50 per cent of normal levels on Monday in private hospitals and day centre facilities.
While acknowledging the desire of some for elective procedures to ramp up further, Mr Merlino said the health system was still under “extreme stress” despite hospitalisation numbers easing.
About 45 per cent of Victorians aged over 18 have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose, after 13,486 doses were administered at state-run hubs on Sunday.
Mr Merlino also flagged the proportion of children aged five to 11 to receive at least their first COVID-19 vaccine dose will hit 50 per cent on Monday, less than a month after the age group became eligible.