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Vic reports 19 virus deaths, 7224 cases

Victoria has reported another 19 COVID-19 deaths and 7224 infections, as public hospitals across the state prepare to resume non-essential healthcare.

Of the new cases revealed on Saturday, 4679 were detected through rapid antigen tests, and 2545 through PCR testing.

The state is now managing 55,102 active cases, with 487 people in hospital, 66 fewer than the day before.

Some 79 people are in intensive care and 19 are ventilated.

With COVID-19 hospitalisations having halved in the past three weeks, the state government on Friday announced the code brown pandemic alert issued for the health system would lift.

The unprecedented alert was issued in January as hospitals and health services came under increasing pressure due to the Omicron wave, and saw urgent services further cut back and staff leave postponed.

The measure has been in place for just more than three weeks and will be lifted at midday on Monday.

“Next week is the fourth week and we’re confident that while still going to be very, very busy that we are in a position to safely lift the code brown alert,” Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters.

Non-urgent elective surgery will also be ramped up from next week, allowing private hospitals in metropolitan areas to perform up to half of all elective surgery, and those in regional Victoria can do 75 per cent.

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital will also be able to resume category two surgery, and regional public hospitals can restart category two elective surgery depending on staff availability.

Opposition health spokesperson Georgie Crozier on Friday told reporters the code brown should never have been imposed and many Victorians are desperate for elective surgery.

“This is not as a result of COVID, this is years of mismanagement,” she said.

All other public hospitals in Melbourne will continue to be restricted to emergency and urgent elective surgery, with the health minister to consider further easing next week.

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