Mask use will be scaled down in Victoria, and venues will be able to operate at greater capacity as part of a further easing of restrictions that could be in place for the weekend.
- Victoria is expected to hit, or be close to, 90 per cent of people over 12 being double dosed, almost a week earlier than first forecast on November 24
- Limits are likely to be scrapped for home and outdoor gatherings
- The government is also being urged to create a blanket rule across hospitals and aged care requiring visitors to be vaccinated
But hospitals, nurses and doctors are demanding the Victorian government make it compulsory for hospital visitors to be vaccinated in a bid to better protect vulnerable patients and staff.
It is also likely that the government will make changes to self-isolation rules for contacts of positive cases when Premier Daniel Andrews makes an announcement about the easing of restrictions, which could be as early as Thursday morning.
By the end of the week, it is expected Victoria will have hit, or be close to, 90 per cent of people over 12 being double dosed, almost a week earlier than first forecast on November 24.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health said 93.2 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and over had one dose, and 87.8 per cent had two doses.
Government and health officials met on Wednesday night to thrash out the next stage of eased restrictions, but under the roadmap, mask-wearing is only mandatory in high-risk settings, including hospitals and public transport.
Masks in offices are set to become a thing of the past, which will encourage more people to return to work, but there was a push for masks to continue to play a role given daily case numbers were still close to 1,000, and the large number of unvaccinated children catching COVID-19.
Senior sources said there was a strong appetite to get on with the next stage of the roadmap and to not waver from the plan, especially with heated debate over some of the “draconian” provisions in the government’s divisive pandemic bill being debated at parliament.
Under the government’s roadmap, hospitality and retail will also get a boost, with density limits being scrapped.
Major events can also increase their capacity but will need to have an approved COVID-safe plan – this includes events like the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
Limits are likely to be scrapped for home and outdoor gatherings.
Mandate vaccines for hospital and aged-care visitors
The government is also being urged to create a blanket rule across hospitals and aged care requiring visitors to be vaccinated.
The Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation has been backing the rules for some time, warning it is half-hearted to have requirements for other public settings but not hospitals and public aged care.
“We wish it would happen,” ANMF Victorian secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said.
“It would be a better comfort to our members knowing that the people they share the corridors of the hospital with are vaccinated.”
Currently, hospitals have different policies, with some requiring vaccination to enter as a visitor.
The Victorian Healthcare Association (VHA), which represents all public hospitals in Victoria, wants a uniform directive from Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
“We want healthcare workers to have as much protection from COVID-19 as retail and hospitality workers currently have,” VHA chief executive Tom Symondson said.
“Thousands of healthcare workers have been infected with COVID-19 in Victoria to date. We need to protect them from exposure to the virus in every way we can.”
Some hospitals are using rapid antigen tests for visitors – in NSW, unvaccinated visitors cannot enter a hospital, with some exemptions.
There would be exemptions allowed in Victoria, including for parents of children in hospital.
But the request is unlikely to be implemented by the state government, with senior sources saying it is not under consideration.
The Australian Medical Association’s Victorian president, Roderick McRae, also backed the plan, saying it would make hospitals safer.
“It’s mandatory for staff in hospitals; it is reasonable the same applies to visitors to hospitals, noting that technology can assist with communication for those who are not vaccinated,” he said.