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Victoria to lift code brown alert for hospitals

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Victoria will lift its code brown pandemic alert for the state’s health system.

The alert was issued in January as hospitals and health services came under increasing pressure due to the Omicron wave, and meant non-essential services were further cut back and staff leave postponed.

It had been in place for just over three weeks and will lift at midday on Monday.

Non-urgent elective surgery will also be ramped up from next week, allowing private hospitals to perform up to half of all elective surgery in metropolitan hospitals, and 75 per cent in regional Victoria.

Health authorities are also training more than 1000 people to help with the state’s vaccination push.

The new staff will include health students, retired nurses and other trained workers and will administer vaccines to people aged over 18.

It came as Victoria confirmed another 13 deaths from COVID-19, and 8521 more cases.

Of Friday’s infections, 5359 were detected through rapid antigen tests, and 3162 through PCR testing.

The state is managing 55,617 active cases, with 553 people in hospital, 82 in intensive care and 23 on ventilation.

State-run hubs administered 14,650 vaccine doses on Thursday, and about 49 per cent of Victorians over 18 have received a booster shot.

Also on Thursday, the state’s chief health officer extended the deadline for key workers to get a booster, allowing another four weeks.

It means health and aged care, emergency, disability, quarantine and food distribution workers eligible for a third dose before January 12 will now have until March 12 to receive their booster.

Workers in those sectors who became eligible after January 12 must have received their third vaccine dose by March 29.

Healthcare workers must provide evidence of their vaccination status or a medical exemption to continue working, according to the CHO’s Thursday update.

However, the police union said officers had been given until midnight on Friday to show proof that they were booked for a third dose, so they could continue working.

Police Association of Victoria Secretary Wayne Gatt said the issue had caused an administrative nightmare for police members, many of whom had recently had COVID-19.

“To continue to do this at the eleventh hour with imperfect health orders, that means employees and employers have to confront this anxiety at midnight about how they can provide evidence of their intent to get boosted, is simply ludicrous,” he said.

He has called on the state government to give Victoria Police and other emergency workers another week to get their booster booking in order.

Health authorities have been contacted for comment.

-AAP

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