Vic vax hubs to close, test demand rises

·3-min read

As COVID-19 vaccination hubs wind down in Victoria, a rise in demand for testing is putting more pressure on the system.

The Victorian government on Friday confirmed the closure of eight state-run vaccination clinics, starting from the end of this week, as dose rates slow to a crawl.

Landmark sites at the Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre will deliver their last jabs in mid-December, along with Box Hill Town Hall.

Other clinics at Eastland shopping centre and Wyndham's Eagle Stadium are scheduled to shut at the end of the week, followed by St Vincent's Private in Werribee, the Melbourne Showgrounds and the Olivia Newton-John centre next to Austin Hospital.

State-run hubs have been the engine room of Victoria's vaccination push since first opening in March, delivering about half of the state's 10.6 million doses.

Fifteen metro and regional sites will remain open into next year to administer booster shots and potentially first and second doses to five to 11-year-old children, if and when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved by federal regulators.

Victoria recorded 1362 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths on Friday, the state's highest daily number of infections since November 1.

The rising cases coincide with strong testing numbers, including 73,419 processed on Thursday.

The health department's COVID-19 response deputy secretary Naomi Bromley said average testing had jumped from 41,000 in August to 71,000 at present.

She told ABC Radio Melbourne the testing system has been scaled up to meet rising demand this week, but average wait times have blown out to 60 minutes across the network.

"One of things that has been driving it is we've got kids back at school," Ms Bromley said.

"A lot of kids are getting symptoms ... and in some cases are being directed to go get a test if there has been a COVID case in their classroom."

To counteract the trend, some the state's 200 testing sites have shifted their opening hours from 8am to 8pm to 7am to 7pm to give parents more time to get their children tested before school.

It comes after a major vaccination deadline passed, with about a million Victorian workers now needing to show proof to their employer they are double-dosed to continue working on site.

Those in jobs on the state's authorised worker list, including professional athletes, lawyers, journalists, mining workers, court staff and personal trainers, are required to be fully vaccinated as of Friday.

In further COVID-related changes, Victoria has scrapped its travel permit system and updated its check-in app so parents and guardians can add their children's vaccination certificates.

Meanwhile, the state government offered all 11 upper house crossbenchers a briefing on its proposed pandemic laws on Friday ahead an expected vote on the stalled bill when parliament sits next week.

VICTORIA'S COVID-19 DAILY NUMBERS:

* Ages of seven deaths: 70s to 90s

* Total deaths: 1313

* Active cases: 10,887, up 611

* Hospital patients: 308, down two

* Seven-day hospitalisation average: 307, down two

* Actively infectious ICU patients: 46, down two

* Cleared ICU patients: 53, up five

* Patients on a ventilator: 25, down five

* Tests processed: 73,419

* Vaccine doses at state hubs: 4815

* 12 and over full vaccination rate: 90.2 per cent.

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