Daniel Andrews says unvaccinated Victorians will not be granted equal freedoms by Christmas, as GPs and pharmacies in Melbourne’s hardest-hit suburbs are allocated grants to set up or increase in-house Covid vaccination capacity.
Victoria recorded 705 new locally acquired cases on Monday and one death, a man in his 70s from the local government area of Darebin. It brings the death toll from the current outbreak to 25.
At Monday’s press conference, the Victorian premier stated point-blank that he would not be replicating New South Wales’s newly unveiled roadmap, which will see unvaccinated people awarded many of the same freedoms as the vaccinated population once 90% of the over-16 population is fully vaccinated, on about 1 December.
Andrews said this would just reduce motivation to get the jab.
“I will not say to people, just wait five weeks and you will have all the freedoms. No, that is not a guarantee at all here,” he said.
“We haven’t even had a conversation about when [the vaccinated economy] might change and everyone might be on an equal footing. So disparate and stark are the differences between the risks to the hospital system that a vaccinated person poses versus an unvaccinated person.”
Andrews reaffirmed he isn’t aiming for borderline impossible goal of 100% vaccination but, nevertheless will “be pushing for as long as [he] possibly can.”
“Because every single jab matters,” he said.
“I am not surprised that Gladys is talking about 90%, they are three or four weeks ahead of us … over the next few weeks we will be able to watch very closely and see what happens in New South Wales as they open up. What does it mean for their health system and their nurses and doctors? What does it mean for case numbers? All of those things. We wish them well but we will get the benefit of that.”
Victoria’s vaccination rate now sits at 47.7% of the over-16 population fully immunised and 78.3% having received at least one dose.
The state is now extremely close to the 80% single vaccination milestone. Once hit, people will be able to travel 15km from home, up from 10km, while patron caps in regional venues will increase from 20 to 30. Golf, tennis and cricket, as well as group personal training for up to five fully vaccinated adults, can also resume. This is expected to be on Wednesday.
But the premier noted that vaccination rates were rising unevenly across the state, with some of the hardest-hit areas faltering. In response, Andrews announced a new support package for community pharmacies and GP’ in 11 local government’s areas of highest concern, with grants available to help establish in-house vaccination services.
Despite usually being the remit of the commonwealth, pharmacies and GPs in the areas of Brimbank, Cardinia, Casey, Darebin, Greater Dandenong, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Melton, Whittlesea and Wyndham, can apply to the Victorian government for one of 120, $4,000 grants, which can be increased to $10,000 for ten providers.
“I have had a couple of pharmacists put to me that they don’t have enough room in their shop but if they had a bit of help, they could rent some space next door or just down the road. They would be able to run, if you like, their own vaccine hub in that space.”
Andrews said the grants would allow GPs and pharmacies to operate additional hours, hire more staff or rent out the space required.
“For a relatively modest investment, we get a huge return. More and more people vaccinated means less people in hospital, our community and economy open sooner,” he said.
Expressions of interest will open this week, with the distribution of funds starting next Monday.
According to Andrews, more than 80% of Monday’s new infections are among the under-50 cohort, with a quarter aged in their 20s.
The new infections bring the number of active cases in the state to 8538, including 363 people in hospital, 75 in intensive care, and 56 requiring a ventilator.
The state’s second-largest city, Geelong was released from lockdown overnight. On Monday it recorded two new cases, although both were primary close contacts.