Victoria reports 20 deaths and 16,016 new COVID-19 cases

Victoria has reported 20 deaths and a slight drop in daily cases numbers, recording 16,016 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours.

Of today’s cases, 7584 were reported by positive rapid antigen test results.

There are 1029 people in hospital with the virus and 120 people admitted to intensive care while 39 people are on ventilators.

The hospitalisation number is a slight drop from yesterday.

Victorian COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said the hospitalisations are beginning to stabilise.

“Encouraging to see a little bit of stabilisation over the last few days in that hospitalisation number,” he said.

“Case numbers look like they’re reasonably stabilising,” he said.

Mr Weimar said the seven-day average of cases is sitting just under 21,000.

He also said the test positivity rate is beginning to drop “ever so slightly”.

After the testing chaos over Christmas, the PCR testing wait times are now averaging 24 minutes at clinics across the state.

Victoria's COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar
Mr Weimar said hospitalisations in Victoria are beginning to stabilise (9News)
It comes as Victorians may soon have to be triple-vaccinated to enter cafes or restaurants.

The state government is moving towards a booster mandate to help increase the number of people with the third COVID-19 vaccine.

The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions met with hospitality and retail groups yesterday to discuss how the mandate will have a major impact on staff and customers, The Age reported.
The nation's GPs and pharmacists will receive an additional 180,000 booster doses in the first week of January, to keep up with soaring demand.
The Victorian Government is looking to mandate the booster shot. (AP)

The need for QR codes in hospitality and retail venues was discussed given the significant impact of the Omicron outbreak on contact tracing.

The industry discussions came as Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas announced yesterday workers in the public sector will get paid time off to get their third dose as part of the state’s vaccination push.

“We are doing this because the health and safety of our public service and public sector employees and the whole community is vitally important to us,” he said.

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas announced yesterday public sector workers would get paid time off to get their booster shot.
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas announced yesterday public sector workers would get paid time off to get their booster shot. (9News)

“We recognise that, as an employer, we have a duty of care to our public servants.

“They also have a responsibility to the community at large to make sure that they are not a source of infection in those interactions.

“That is why, as an employer, we are taking this vital step. The change in conjunction with the vaccination blitz at sites like this makes getting your third dose earlier and easier than ever before.”

Australians will be able to get their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots after four months from early next year, and then three months from the end of January.
The VIctorian Premier flagged he would not rule out mandating the third dose. (Getty)

“I don’t rule out there being other groups that become the subject of a mandate,” he said.

“I think we’re very close to a change in policy that will reflect the fact that in order to be fully protected you need to have three doses – not two and an optional extra.”

Coles Eastgardens

How Australia faced the emergence of the Omicron variant

Industry leaders are concerned mandating the booster dose will place additional pressure on already struggling businesses.

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