COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar clarified confusion surrounding the retail rule today following reports unvaccinated shoppers could still enter non-essential retail stores for the time being.
Mr Weimar today said unvaccinated people could still shop at non-essential stores for the next few weeks, but when the state hits its 90 per cent vaccine threshold next month, they would be locked out.
According to the Victorian roadmap, the state is due to reach its 90 per cent vaccination milestone on November 24.
Mr Weimar likened the temporary rules to a ‘grace period’.
“We are sending out a very clear signal that says if you are going to be active in these kinds of retail environments post-90 per cent, you will need to get vaccinated,” Mr Weimar said.
“That gives everybody, the few hundred thousand people we have left who are eligible and not yet vaccinated – you can start that journey today and you will be fully vaccinated in time for the 24th of November.”
However, unvaccinated people have been discouraged from shopping at non-essential stores when retail settings reopen on Friday at 6pm – when the state reaches its 80 per cent milestone.
Mr Weimar said enforcement of the vaccine mandate next month would be up to retailers to manage.
“The enforcement of this and how retailers manage it, how shop owners manage this will be largely a matter for them,” he said.
“We will work with them over the coming weeks to get it right. It has worked well in essential retail.”
Victoria’s COVID-19 cases
Another 13 people died with coronavirus yesterday, including a man in his 30s, a woman in her 40s, four men and a woman in their 60s, two men and three women in their 80s and a woman in her 90s.
A total of 76.5 per cent of Victorians and over 16 are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Mr Weimar said it was “reasonably encouraging” to see the daily number of new cases around 1500.
“We have seen it now for a few days, it does feel like we are at a plateau at the moment,” he said.
“The plateau is higher than we would like, but it is slightly under the Burnet modelling at this point in time.”
There are 748 people in Victorian hospitals with COVID-19, including 138 patients in ICU and 87 on a ventilator.
COVID-positive Victorians are being encouraged to recover from the virus at home through the support of new technologies, rather than take up a hospital bed.
The COVID Community Pathways program, run by Dr Richard Coates at The Alfred hospital, is able to monitor the conditions of patients from afar.
Dr Coates said a text message is first sent out with questions helping to prioritise people who need the most urgent attention, asking about vaccinated status, age and other health conditions.
Health workers then follow up with a phone call to people who are in higher-risk groups and enrol them in care – either in a GP-run program or using home monitoring devices.
“People are often sicker between day five and day 10 after their symptoms start,” he said.
“If they are breathless, exhausted … if they have high persistent fevers and feel generally unwell.
“We also keep an eye on their oxygen levels.
“If there is any deterioration, they are organised to go to hospital.”
PM says ‘flexibility’ needed over Australian Open players
Prime Morrison Scott Morrison has suggested “flexibility” is needed around the issue of unvaccinated tennis players entering the country for the Australian Open.
“You just have to manage the public health risk,” Mr Morrison told Today.
“We talk about large numbers of people, obviously there is a smaller number of actual players.”
However, Mr Morrison said arrivals would have to follow state health rules, and that two weeks of quarantine for unvaccinated people was “sensible”.
He noted that exemptions were able to be granted.
“It is nice to have clear and hard and fast rules, but there needs to be a little bit of flexibility so we can live with the virus,” he said.