Victoria records 8577 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths

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Victoria has reported a record 8577 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths, as experts raise doubts about the usefulness of the QR-code check-in system.

Monday’s daily case numbers surpassed Victoria’s previous record of 7442, set on New Year’s Day. The state recorded 7172 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.

The number of people in hospital with the virus has risen slightly to 491, and there are 104 people in intensive care. Of those, 56 still have an active COVID-19 infection, and 24 are on a ventilator.

Another 494 Victorians rolled up their sleeves to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose at a state-run hub on Sunday, while 44,168 tests were processed.

The proportion of the population aged over 12 who are fully vaccinated is at 93 per cent, while 11 per cent have received three doses.

NSW recorded 20,794 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths.

Victoria’s testing clinics were again under strain on Monday morning, with at least 11 at full capacity and forced to temporarily closed minutes after they opened about 7.30am.

The facilities forced to close about 7.30am included Aughtie Walk drive-through at Albert Park, La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus, Deakin University’s Burwood testing hub, Northern Health at Craigieburn, IPC Health at Deer Park, Northern Hospital at Epping, Springers Leisure Centre at Keysborough, and the Bourke Street walk-in in Melbourne’s CBD.

Listed wait times for other open testing sites varied from 60 minutes at facilities including Melton Football Netball Club, to 180 minutes at Cranbourne testing hub.

By about 8.50am, the list of testing sites closed because they were at full capacity grew to 27.

Meanwhile, the Victorian government wants people to continue checking in at every venue in the state, despite doubts about the QR-code system’s effectiveness to stem the spread of COVID-19 given high case numbers and the change in the “close contact” definition.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has recommended “reviewing the utility of QR code check-ins at lower-risk exposure locations”, but keeping them in place for high-risk venues to allow health authorities to identify potential super-spreader events more quickly.

University of Melbourne epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely said QR scanning has “little utility” given the definition of a close contact.

“Perhaps [check-ins] are still warranted in high-risk places like gyms and nightclubs. But not elsewhere,” Professor Blakely said.

“Once Omicron has passed, a new more virulent variant arises, then we may need them again in the future.”

On Saturday, federal health authorities also published interim guidance on managing aged care workforce shortages caused by high rates of COVID-19 in the community.

The framework, approved by federal Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, recommends aged care facilities return workers who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case to work with no isolation period when staff shortages cause a “high impact” on services.

Under the framework, aged care workers would return to facilities while close contacts must still self-isolate when not at work. They must have a PCR test followed by rapid antigen tests every 72 hours during work periods, and will wear additional personal protection equipment.

The same measures can be applied to staff exposed in an outbreak within a facility, provided there is a high impact on services.

Victoria currently requires fully vaccinated staff to stay away from aged care facilities for seven days after a COVID-19 exposure.

With Tammy Mills and Cameron Houston

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