Tuesday, March 28, 2023

‘Different phase of pandemic’: Victoria calls off return to mandate

The rise in Influenza A has prompted the Victorian government to announce free flu shots for the month of June – but the state’s health minister is adamant that there will be no further mandates.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley says vaccine and mask mandates are no longer necessary despite mounting pressure on the state’s healthcare system amid rising COVID-19 and flu cases.

Mr Foley, who on Tuesday announced a free flu jab for Victorians for the month of June, said the state’s health system is “under enormous pressure”, but dismissed the need to restore mandates.

“Masks are now required only in very limited circumstances, hospitals are at risk; Aged care and disability settings,” he said at a press conference.

“We are now evolving decision-making and responsibility for workplaces and communities and individuals in the field of recovery in the pandemic.

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“We have gone through the process of getting a mandate fit for 2020/21, because we have had this long plateau of recovery, it is now a different phase of the pandemic.

“We have to learn to live safely with COVID and the responsibility of wearing a mask in those limited circumstances where you are required is one thing, but deciding in situations where you cannot socially distance is up to the individuals “

Asked by a reporter whether the state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, had suggested making masks mandatory again, Mr Foley replied: “No, they haven’t.”

Mr Foley said there were 527 Victorians hospitalized with COVID-19 after the state recorded less than 10,000 cases overnight.

“This is a huge demand on an already stretched healthcare system,” he said.

“Add to that a flu season that we haven’t seen for many years, add to that … 1600 people are disconnected from healthcare every day … It’s a health care system that’s under enormous pressure.”

Victoria has seen a 30 percent jump in flu cases in the past week, with Influenza A infections reaching 10,000 to 15,000.

The increase has prompted the government to bear the bill for vaccines for the month of June.

The state government will reimburse GPs and community pharmacies for flu shots that are administered to any Victorians who are not usually eligible for free flu shots.

The Andrews government is also offering a $2,000 grant to immunization providers to help them manage additional demand – such as rostering more staff and opening up more hours.

Anyone with cold and flu symptoms should get tested for COVID-19 and stay home until their symptoms resolve – whether it’s COVID-19 or the flu.

Nation World News Desk
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