Victoria records 20,769 COVID cases, 18 deaths as hospitals activate emergency mode

Meanwhile, Australia’s health watchdog is investigating reports retailers are selling repackaged rapid antigen kits for a premium, despite warnings of multimillion-dollar penalties for companies that breach labelling rules.

The probe follows reports petrol stations, convenience stores, and supermarkets are selling the sought-after kits inside zip-lock bags, sometimes missing crucial components for their correct use.

Readers who contacted this masthead reported instances where tests had been sold inside individual envelopes without the testing tube used to hold the chemical solution into which the swab should be dipped to obtain a result. Others spoke of purchasing kits inside sandwich bags and being asked to photograph the instructions.

More than 22,121 Victorians received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at state-run sites on Tuesday, increasing the state’s vaccine coverage to more than 93 per cent for people aged 12 and over. To date, 26 per cent of eligible Victorians have received a booster shot.

Victorians made 115,000 bookings to get a dose of the coronavirus vaccine over the past week. About 77,000 of those were for booster shots and 36,000 for children getting their first dose.

As of Tuesday, there were more than 175,000 vaccination appointments available across Victoria over the next month, including 44,000 slots for children.

What is a code brown?

  • Code brown is a measure to relieve pressure on hospitals.
  • The measure is typically reserved for sudden, short-term emergencies, such as a train crash or bushfire (for example, a code brown was called during the 2016 thunderstorm asthma event).
  • During a code brown, hospitals can cancel their staff’s leave to ensure an adequate workforce is on hand.
  • They can also defer less urgent services.
  • This code brown starts at noon on Wednesday. It’s expected to last for between four and six weeks.
  • It will apply to all metropolitan public hospitals. In regional Victoria, Geelong’s Barwon Health and the Grampians, Bendigo, Goulburn Valley, Albury Wodonga and Latrobe Regional health groups are also included. Private hospitals have the option of calling their own code brown.

New regulations introduced on Wednesday mean crucial workers in the emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport, and freight sectors no longer need to quarantine if they come in close contact with a confirmed virus case.

The change brings these workers in line with those in healthcare and food distribution, who do not need to isolate after spending more than four hours with an infected person.

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