Victoria records 1,503 COVID-19 cases and six deaths after record day of testing

Victoria has recorded 1,503 new local COVID-19 cases and six deaths, as record demand for testing continues to overwhelm several sites in Melbourne.

There are 394 COVID-19 patients in Victorian hospitals, including 70 active cases in intensive care and 41 patients on a ventilator.

There are 44 patients whose infections are no longer considered active in ICU.

The state’s seven-day average for hospitalisations is now 391, up from 296 a fortnight ago.

The latest cases were detected from 92,262 results processed on Tuesday — the highest number of daily tests in Victoria since the pandemic began.

There are 13,888 active cases in the state.

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Queues are again ballooning out at testing sites, with demand from those planning Christmas travel into states requiring negative PCR test results causing major delays.

Several testing centres, including those at Albert Park, South Melbourne, Bourke Street in Melbourne’s CBD, Alfred Health, St Vincent’s Hospital, Malvern East, Wantirna, and Keysborough all reached capacity shortly after opening this morning.

Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino said on Tuesday mask rules were being weighed up but the state’s main COVID-19 settings would not change, despite calls from some health experts to reimpose some restrictions given the explosion of Omicron cases in New South Wales.

Mr Merlino and other state leaders will use today’s extraordinary meeting of national cabinet to push for the interval between the second and third COVID-19 vaccine doses to be shortened, in a bid to curb the spread of Omicron.

Experts say changing booster shot timing not easy

But Australia’s peak medical body said allowing people to get their booster shot sooner than five months could be difficult due to a lack of qualified staff.

The Australian Medical Association vice-president, Chris Moy, said shortening the time period might make sense in theory but logistically, it could be unachievable.

“We have to get to 7 million shots by the end of February, and then we have to add children on, so that’s 10 million,” Dr Moy said.

“Then on top of that, if we decide to shift down to say four or three months, then we have got a serious problem on our hands because it’s not the amount of vaccines, it’s the vaccinating ability.”

Victorian Pharmacy Guild president says boosters can’t be expedited without federal assistance.(AP: Steven Senne)

Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Anthony Tassone, has also thrown cold water on suggestions that booster doses could be expedited, saying the system was already “struggling” to roll out boosters with a five-month interval.

Mr Tassone said any shortening of the interval would cause longer wait times and create barriers to access for Australians, and called on the Commonwealth to intervene and improve remuneration for pharmacies.

He said only about half of the pharmacies that were initially involved in the primary dose rollout of COVID vaccinations would continue their participation with booster doses.

“We’ve got less access points doing more work, and it’s not sustainable, and it’s not going to work for the public going forward,” he said.

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