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Asthma alert as hospitals deal with COVID

Victorian health authorities have issued the first thunderstorm asthma alert for the season, with authorities warning hospitals are already dealing with COVID-19 patients.

The state’s southwest, Wimmera and Mallee districts will be high risk areas on Thursday.

“The combination of forecast high grass pollen levels and severe thunderstorms with strong winds means that there is a chance that a large number of people may develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time,” the warning says.

“Our hospitals are experiencing significant demand due to COVID-19, so it’s important you stay well.”

Those at risk are being advised to avoid being outdoors during storms and the winds that precede them, and remember to take preventative medication.

A thunderstorm asthma event in 2016 killed nine people and saw thousands more hospitalised.

The warning comes as health authorities urge half a million people to get vaccinated the day before statewide restrictions ease once again.

From 6pm Friday, people in metropolitan Melbourne will be allowed to travel to the regions and interstate, masks will not be required outdoors, and non-essential retail stores will be able to open.

But about 500,000 Victorians have yet to receive their first vaccine dose, with only 83 per cent of people aged in their 20s getting a first jab.

The state recorded another 1534 locally acquired virus cases on Wednesday and 13 more deaths, with about 85 per cent of Victoria’s new cases among people who are not fully vaccinated.

About 750 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus and of those, 138 are in intensive care with 87 on a ventilator.

The latest deaths take the toll from the current outbreak to 247.

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