Victoria has reported 176 new local cases of COVID-19, as authorities announce the wait time between AstraZeneca vaccine doses has been reduced from 12 to six weeks.
The new caseload represents the state’s highest daily jump in cases this year.
Of the new infections reported in the 24 hours to midnight on Wednesday, only 83 were linked to previous cases.
State-run hubs administered 33,720 vaccine doses in the same reporting period.
Health Minister Martin Foley said on Thursday that combined with figures from GPs, pharmacies, and Commonwealth facilities, more than five million vaccine doses have now been given in Victoria.
He said that means the state is “more than halfway” to its ‘one million vaccines in five weeks’ target.
“Vaccines continue to be our way out of this pandemic and the way to gradual reducing of these restrictions,” Mr Foley told reporters in Melbourne.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie also announced on Thursday that the dosage interval for AstraZeneca vaccine had been revised from down to six weeks in all of Victoria’s state-run services in response to the Delta outbreak.
“That matches the dosage interval for the Pfizer vaccine, so it would be six weeks for AstraZeneca, and for Pfizer, going forward,” he said.
“This change, and the additional supply of Pfizer vaccine, from the Commonwealth, when it arrives in Victoria, will help us to reach our vaccination targets faster, but more importantly they will really contribute to our response to community transmission downward pressure on cases and contribute to protecting our health system as we look after all Victorians.”
Professor Cowie said younger people continue to be impacted most by the state’s outbreak.
“Three-quarters of our active cases are aged under 40 years.”
“There are a few reasons for that, but one of them clearly is the higher levels of vaccination in older age groups, and that really emphasises the urgent need to get vaccination to every eligible Victorian we possibly can, as soon as those become available.”
The Victorian government confirmed on Wednesday that almost all of the current coronavirus restrictions will remain in place until 70 per cent of the state’s eligible residents have received at least one vaccine dose – estimated to be on or around 23 September.
But playgrounds will reopen from 11.59pm on Thursday for children under 12, plus the supervision of just one parent or guardian who must wear a mask at all times
In-home care, such as babysitters, will also be expanded to school-aged children, but only if both parents are authorised workers.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s chief psychiatrist has urged parents to regularly talk to their children about how they are coping with the state’s sixth lockdown.
Dr Neil Coventry said it was a particularly challenging period for children and teenagers, who have spent much of the past 18 months learning from home.
“The thing I would most like to stress is we need to talk to our kids about how they’re coping. Please, please, please, reach out to your kids,” he said.
“Don’t be anxious and afraid to have conversations about how your kids are hoping, how are they feeling at the moment, what are their challenges and their confusions about what’s going on.”
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