More than 220,000 residents living in 22 Victoria suburbs have been urged to come forward for testing as the state’s Covid outbreak spreads rapidly.
Victoria has recorded 176 new coronavirus cases, an increase of more than 50 from Wednesday.
It brings total active cases in the state to 1,029. There were 93 mystery cases on Thursday, with 83 cases linked to known outbreaks.
Victoria Health Minister Martin Foley said during a media conference on Thursday that “cases keep emerging particularly in the northern and western suburbs”.
“But we’re also now starting to see more cases spring up in the eastern and southern suburbs of Melbourne,” he told reporters.
“The truth is that as the premier predicted yesterday, we have a rise in case numbers and we all need to be increasingly on high alert to the risks that go with increasing transmission of Covid-19 in our community.”
Mr Foley outlined a number of suburbs across the state where the virus has been detected in wastewater in the past week. They are:
The suburbs have a population total of 220,655, according to the 2016 census.
Mr Foley made a “call out” for anyone who lives in the above suburbs to pay attention to any symptoms they might have and come forward for testing if they develop any. He also told residents to “keep an eye” on the more than 1,000 Covid exposure sites.
Time between AstraZeneca vaccines halved
The interval between doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine has been halved from 12 to six weeks in Victoria.
Acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie says the change will be reflected on the state's vaccination booking website from Thursday.
"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," he said.
"But more importantly, they will really contribute to the response to community transmission, put a downward pressure on cases, and contribute to protecting the health system."
The change makes the wait time between AstraZeneca doses the same as for Pfizer, of which the state has limited supplies.
The move comes after the Victorian government conceded efforts to bring cases down to zero, with tough restrictions to remain in place until October.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Wednesday that the state's current restrictions will remain until about September 23, when 70 per cent of the eligible population is expected to have received the first vaccine dose.
After hitting that mark, there will be slightly more freedom, including the travel limit expanding to 10km and exercise increasing to three hours.
Playgrounds, however, will reopen on Friday to children aged 12 and under with the supervision of one parent or guardian, who must wear a mask and check-in.
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