Australia

Victoria to tighten vaccine exemption rules as it reports record day of COVID-19 deaths

The health department confirmed on Thursday the state is now managing 22,189 active infections.

There are 746 people in hospital, with the seven-day average at 780. Of those, 137 are in intensive care with 85 on a ventilator.

More than 77 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over are now fully vaccinated after 22,189 doses were administered at state-run hubs on Wednesday.

Victoria records 1,923 new local COVID-19 cases


Half a million people are being urged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as statewide restrictions are set to ease once again.

From 6pm Friday, people in metropolitan Melbourne will be allowed to travel to the regions and interstate, masks will not be required outdoors, and non-essential retail stores will be able to open.

But about 500,000 Victorians have yet to receive their first vaccine dose, with only 83 per cent of people aged in their 20s getting a first jab.

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Acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie said medical exemption requirements for vaccines will change after GPs had complained of receiving “significant pressure” from people who do not want to get vaccinated.

He said GPs had reported “people travelling from clinic to clinic” seeking a medical exemption and doctors were calling for more clarity on the issue.

“A very small number of people are unable to get a COVID-19 vaccination because they have a condition,” he told reporters.

“Victorian GPs are tasked with determining these exemptions when visited by their patients, but we have heard feedback from some of our GP colleagues that there have been some problems with this process.”

From 6pm on Friday, patients asking for an exemption to avoid the jab will be required to present official proof of their exemption via an Australian Immunisation Register form.

People with a current exemption letter, that is not an AIR form, will need to return to their doctor so a form can be submitted on their behalf before 12 November.

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Meanwhile, authorities warn there’s a high risk of a thunderstorm asthma event in the state’s southwest, Wimmera and Mallee districts, while Melbourne may be moderately affected.

The combination of high grass pollen levels, severe thunderstorms and strong winds on Thursday means a “large number of people” may develop asthma symptoms quickly, the health department said.

“Our hospitals are experiencing significant demand due to COVID-19, so it’s important you stay well,” an alert said.

Those at risk are being advised to avoid being outdoors during storms and the winds that precede them, and remember to take preventative medication.

A thunderstorm asthma event in 2016 killed nine people and saw thousands more hospitalised.

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