Victoria Covid update: vaccine passports trialled as Pfizer offered to all age groups

State reports 1,612 new local coronavirus cases and eight deaths amid testing of updated phone app

About 70,000 Victorians have downloaded the updated Service Victoria app as the state pushes ahead with regional trials for the vaccinated economy.

The smartphone app allows Victorians to view and download vaccine certificates for the double jabbed, which can be scanned alongside QR code check-ins at venues.

From today, the “vaccine passports” trial kicked off at a number of sites in the highly vaccinated Bass Coast, Greater Bendigo, Pyrenees, Warrnambool, Buloke and East Gippsland local government areas, in the lead-up to 26 October when 70% of the eligible population is expected to be fully vaccinated.

The venues and businesses – including galleries, movie theatres, sporting facilities, and hospitality and retail outlets – will trial higher patron numbers for people who have been fully vaccinated.

This comes as any Victorian over 12 will be able to walk in to a state-run vaccination hub and receive an mRNA vaccination, as commonwealth supply becomes “increasingly assured”.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were previously restricted to Victorians aged under 60 but from Monday was expanded to all eligible age groups.

“As we push to 70 and 80% double doses and beyond, it’s time to throw open the doors of all of our clinics, more than 60 of them across the state, to the mRNA vaccines … for all comers,” said Victoria’s health minister, Martin Foley.

“This change … has been made possible by the relative certainty we now have for both Moderna and Pfizer and the extraordinary number of young people who have come forward over the past three and a half weeks.”

As of Monday morning, 86% of Victorians aged over 16 have received their first vaccination dose, including more than 95% of people aged over 70.

Among 12- to 16-year-olds, 64% were single-dose vaccinated less than a month after the rollout was expanded to the age group.

A new vaccination campaign is rolling out on TV, radio, print and online as the state flags the reopening of public life for vaccinated residents by summer.

“It’s all about capturing the sentiment that Victorians want to get back to the things we love, the things that we aspire to … after 20 months of such hard work,” Foley said. “Dine in, sport, travel, work, but perhaps most importantly of all, reconnecting with family and friends and those we love.”

Victoria reported 1,612 new locally transmitted coronavirus cases overnight, and eight further deaths: a man in his 40s, a man in his 60s, four people in their 70s, and two men in their 80s.

Just over one in five of the new cases were people aged over 50, as hospitalisations increased to 677, including 133 in intensive care and 94 requiring ventilation.

The outbreak in Hume is beginning to see a stabilisation, with 199 cases recorded from a peak of 300, in part due to the “dramatic” increase in vaccination in the LGA; 85.6% of eligible Hume residents have now received at least one dose of a vaccine, almost doubling in a month from a low of 48.2%.

But there is concern over ongoing transmission in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, with additional testing and vaccination capacity established in Cranbourne.

There were 174 new cases recorded in Casey overnight, the highest of any LGA, and 122 new cases in regional Victoria, including 60 in Latrobe and 36 in locked-down Mildura.

Foley said he was “more than hopeful” the state would be able to remain on track with its reopening plan but the challenges for the health system would be “very real”.

“We want to make sure that we take the careful, cautious but sustained steps to reopen,” he said. “What we have to do is navigate our way through to very tricky processes.

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“The Victorian roadmap … and the modelling from the Burnet Institute talked about a range of measures that we would expect to see case numbers increase. So far, we remain within that band.”

Some 10,000 people are expected to attend the Melbourne Cup this year, while “several thousand” will be permitted to attend an outdoor concert at Sidney Myer Music Bowl on 30 October.

Foley said “regulated settings” posed a significantly lower risk than other easings of restrictions, including looser limits on household visits.

“If you have a CovidSafe plan in place, if you have the bubble arrangements, if you have the active cooperation of responsible partners … you’ll have a safe event,” he said.


Caitlin Cassidy

The GuardianTramp

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