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Victoria has recorded 37,169 new COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths, as isolation requirements relax for critical workers, and new virus restrictions kick in across the state.
The figures bring the official number of active coronavirus cases in Victoria to 221,726. Of the new cases, 20,326 were recorded through PCR testing, while 16,843 were self-reported after rapid antigen testing.
Retail supermarket workers are among those who may keep working if they are a close contact of a COVID-19 case, under new pandemic orders that came into effect at 11.59pm on Wednesday.
The number of people in hospital in Victoria with COVID-19 has risen to another all-time high of 953, up from 946 on Wednesday. There are 111 people in the intensive care unit, and 29 on a ventilator.
NSW has reported 92,264 new coronavirus cases and 22 deaths.
New pandemic orders, which came into effect in Victoria at 11.59pm on Wednesday, mean workers in food and beverage manufacturing, packing, and distribution are allowed to keep going to work even after they become a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
The worker has to consent to the arrangement, as does their employer. The worker also has to return negative rapid antigen tests for five days to stay on the job, and they cannot go into shared break rooms.
National cabinet was on Thursday going to discuss proposals likely to include similar, federal rules for critical workers, along with lifting restrictions on working hours for temporary migrants.
Farmers have pleaded with the federal government to increase the supply of rapid antigen tests to the agriculture sector to relieve pressure on supply chains.
New vaccine mandates also came into effect in Victoria at midnight on Wednesday for critical workers, and there are new rules for visitors to hospitals and aged care facilities.
Aged care residents are only allowed up to five visitors a day if their guests can show negative rapid antigen test results. Visitors to hospitals have to be fully vaccinated, or show proof of a negative rapid test result, and wear an N95 mask in a facility.
Indoor dance floors at hospitality and entertainment venues, except for at weddings, were also banned from 11.59pm on Wednesday.
Authorities have said the new measures are designed to ease the pressure on the under-strain food and beverage distribution sector, as well as protect high-risk healthcare and hospitality settings from outbreaks and super-spreader events.
It was another big day for COVID-19 testing in Victoria on Wednesday, with 62,406 tests processed at PCR sites. At least five PCR sites across the state were at full capacity and forced to temporarily close by about 8.15am on Thursday.
The proportion of Victoria’s population aged over 12 who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine stands at 93 per cent, while 20 per cent of over-18s in the state have received a booster dose.
The Andrews government announced on Wednesday it would recruit up to 1000 people, including first-year health students and retired nurses, to join Victoria’s COVID-19 vaccination workforce.
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