Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is making use of the controversial pandemic legislation passed at the end of 2021 by extending the emergency declaration for three more months due to Omicron.
The decision came despite Omicron being recognised by health professionals across the world as being significantly less dangerous than previous strains of Covid.
Without the legislation, Victoria’s pandemic powers would have expired on January 12, 2022.
“The Omicron variant means that there are significant challenges ahead of. The third dose of vaccine rollout, and our children 5 to 11-year-old vaccination blitz will give us the strongest chance of meeting this challenge,” said Premier Daniel Andrews.
“Extending the pandemic declaration ensures that we are able to put the measures in place to slow the rate of transmission and protect the community’s health and our health system.”
The three-month extension of the powers means that Daniel Andrews and the Chief Health Officer will continue to wield extensive powers over Victorian citizens, including the implementation of mandates.
Despite a high percentage of Victorians being double-vaccinated (93.6%), Omicron is spreading rapidly through the population.
There are currently 161,065 cases in Victoria – appearing to make a mockery of the months that the state spent in hard lockdown in pursuit of a now-defunct ‘Covid-Zero’ policy. New South Wales has 303,795 cases, although the state began the Omicron outbreak ahead of Victoria.
Given that Victoria is only beginning on what looks to be a large outbreak, health experts expect hospitalisations to rise in the coming weeks.
It is difficult to accurately quote the hospitalisation figures, as we are aware that at least half still include those hospitalised for reasons other than Covid. Instead, there are 28 people on a ventilator in Victoria.
Victoria’s Covid Commander Jeroen Weimar was forced to apologise when over 7,000 people were left in state-enforced isolation for a week when their PCR tests were declared ‘no longer suitable’.
Infection numbers have risen swiftly across Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland now that Rapid Antigen Tests are being taken into consideration and registered with the government.
“We’ve seen another good day in terms of reporting through our online portal,” said Weimar. “We’ve seen an increasing daily Rapid Antigen Test results related to the same day and I expect over the coming days, the test results will relate to the day that the test is actually taken and come back as positive.”