Victoria changes iso rules to try to refill shelves



Victoria will ease isolation rules for more workers, including transport and education, as COVID continues to affect businesses and services.

The state reported 37,169 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with health authorities managing 221,726 active cases.

There were also 25 deaths – including 17 in the past two days.

There are 953 COVID patients in the state’s hospital. They include 111 in intensive care, of whom 29 require ventilation.

New isolation rules also came into effect on Thursday for supermarket retail workers and those who work in the manufacturing, distribution or packaging of food.

Ahead of a national cabinet meeting later in the day, Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria would ease close contact isolation requirements in several more industries from 11.59pm on Tuesday.

“We can also add emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport and freight,” he said.

“Exempting those workers … is a common sense way in which we can keep those services and important parts of our society as close to normal as possible.”

Workers in these industries will be exempt from isolating if they become a close contact. However, they must be asymptomatic, undertake daily rapid antigen tests for five days and return a negative test before working.

Mr Andrews met supermarket executives on Wednesday and heard they were facing truck driver availability challenges.

“Last week was about distribution centres and some bottlenecks there, this week is about truck drivers,” he said.

“It’s not so much about the availability of that stock, it’s about moving that stock from one part of the state to another.”

There have also been widespread staffing issues across other essential services in Victoria. Ambulances have declared a code red twice in the past week – warning Victorians of delays – and public transport has also been hit.

The number of Victorians over 18 who have received a booster vaccine has risen by 2 per cent, to 20 per cent.

Mr Andrews said there are more than 250,000 booster appointments available.

“Nothing’s more important at this stage in our fight against this global pandemic than those who are eligible for a third dose or a booster going and making an appointment,” he said.

Meanwhile, new rules requiring hospitality and entertainment venues to close indoor dance floors also kicked in on Thursday.

Dance floors at weddings are still permitted, as guests can be easily tracked down.

Mandatory booster arrangements have also kicked in, requiring key workers currently eligible for a third dose to get it before February 12.

The rules apply to disability, health and aged care workers, as well as those working in emergency services, corrections, quarantine and food distribution.

New rules in hospitals mean anyone visiting must be fully vaccinated or return a negative RAT before entering, and wear an N95 mask.

Aged care residents can have only five visitors a day, who must return a negative RAT.

-with AAP

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