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  • Omicron fall eases strain in Victoria

    Author: AAP

Victoria's Omicron wave continues to ease, with the state reporting six COVID-19 related deaths and 7169 new cases.

The infections figure is its lowest this year, while the fatalities were the fewest during a 24-hour reporting period since five deaths were recorded on January 17.

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Aged in their 70s, 80s and 90s, they bring Victoria's overall pandemic toll to 2171, of which 183 have died over the past week.

Health authorities say the state is now managing just under 61,000 active coronavirus cases or almost 2500 fewer than on Saturday.

There are currently 652 virus patients in Victorian hospitals, down from 687 a day earlier. Of these, 73 are in intensive care and 28 are in need of ventilation.

As the past month's surge of cases dwindles, pressure continues to diminish for the state's once-overrun PCR testing system.

Of the new cases announced on Sunday, 4466 were detected from rapid antigen tests and 2703 via PCR tests from a total of 20,624 processed.

Kate Matson, a deputy secretary of Victoria's health department, says there has been a "significant improvement" in recent test turnaround times.

Tens of thousands of PCR tests were deemed invalid in January after pathology clinics were overwhelmed and could not process them within seven days.

However Ms Matson said on Saturday 97.4 per cent of PCR test results were now being returned to people within 24 hours.

Wait times to get a PCR test also blew out to multiple hours in January at many Melbourne sites, with staff forced to suspend testing.

But with less COVID-19 spreading in the community, it is currently taking an average of five minutes for Victorians to get a PCR test.

Those still struggling to get their hands on a rapid antigen test are being urged to join the queue for a "gold standard" PCR test.

With COVID-19 hospitalisations also trending downwards, the Victorian government is allowing private hospitals and day centres to restart non-urgent elective surgery at 50 per cent of normal levels from Monday.

Ms Matson expects hospitalisations to keep falling but cases to either increase slightly or stabilise, due to increased movement.

Victoria has now administered more than 5.7 million COVID vaccine doses since the pandemic began. Of more than 19,000 on Saturday, almost 2500 were received by children aged 5-11.

The state continues to open new pop-up vaccination sites, with 15 launched over the weekend at primary schools.

Meanwhile, authorities say that in the first two days since becoming eligible, 4318 16-17-year-olds have received their third immunisation dose of the adult Pfizer vaccine, given three months after the second dose.

Some 43 per cent of eligible adults across Victoria are now triple dosed and 93 per cent are double jabbed.

In a bid to fast-track Melbourne's COVID recovery, the state opposition has renewed calls for the government to abandon mandatory masks in offices and scrap a recommendation people work from home when possible.


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