Allowing unvaccinated patrons back into Victoria’s pubs, restaurants and cafes some time next year could hinge on the rollout of COVID-19 booster shots.
Victoria recorded 1069 new coronavirus cases and 10 deaths on Tuesday, as the state draws closer to its next milestone on its roadmap to reopening.
Just under 93 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and over have received at least one vaccine dose and 84.5 per cent have had both, with 11,269 doses administered at state-run hubs on Monday.
Almost all restrictions will be scrapped for the double-dosed when the state hits its 90 per cent full vaccination target, forecast for about November 24.
Premier Daniel Andrews reiterated the unvaccinated will remain locked out of most venues indefinitely.
“We’re very clear that the vaccinated economy is here to stay,” he told reporters.
“Exactly how long? I know that’s an unfair question, but it’s a little bit challenging for us to answer that because we do have to see what role the boosters play.”
Booster shots began on Monday for those who had their second jab at least six months ago, with about 1.7 million Australians who will need a booster shot by Christmas.
Based on feedback, the premier said vaccinated Victorians don’t want to sit in pubs and restaurants next to their unvaccinated counterparts who have made the “wrong choice” in refusing the jab.
He has again urged them to reconsider.
“They keep you out of hospital, they keep us open, and five-plus million Victorians have done this and they’ve done it safely,” Mr Andrews said.
There are currently 579 Victorians in hospital battling the virus, of whom 90 are in intensive care including 55 on ventilators.
Ongoing COVID-related pressure on the healthcare system has been blamed for Victoria’s public elective surgery waiting list rising to a record high.
Latest figures from the Victorian Agency for Health Information show 67,596 people across the state were waiting for elective surgery as of September 30, up by 1366 from the previous quarter.
Non-urgent surgeries were paused in mid-October to deal with rising demand on the pubic health system.
Mr Andrews said he was “deeply regretful” to those whose surgery had been cancelled but didn’t want to risk restarting too quickly.
“What’s worse than being cancelled once is being cancelled twice or three times,” he said.
“There’s a balance here as we manage those patients who are very unwell and are in hospitals, either because of COVID or with COVID.
“We’ll get it back to full tilt as quickly as we can, as safely as we can.”
But opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crosier argued the elective surgery “crisis” was exacerbated by COVID-19, not caused by it.
“It has been years in the making,” she said, calling for the state government to announce a resumption date.
It comes as Victoria braces to pass 100,000 total COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began.
Tuesday’s further 1069 infections pushed the state’s case total to 99,183, with 15,607 still active.
It was the sixth consecutive day Victoria reported a daily infection number above 1000.