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Victoria adds 1069 COVID instances, two deaths

Victoria has recorded 1069 new COVID-19 infections and a further two deaths, as access to booster vaccines has been reduced by a month.

It is the seventh consecutive day Victoria has recorded more than 1000 virus cases.

The new cases, detected from 67,312 test results processed on Saturday, bring the total number of active infections in the state to 11,393.

There are 310 Victorians battling COVID-19 in hospital, including 74 in intensive care and 37 on ventilators.

A further 41 people are in ICU but their infections are no longer considered active.

The two deaths, of people aged in their 70s and 80s, bring the toll in Victoria since the pandemic began to 1416.

About 92 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated.

The latest figures come as the federal government reduces the wait for a COVID-19 booster vaccine from six months after a second vaccination to five, in an effort to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant.

Victorian government minister Richard Wynne welcomed the announcement, which is based on advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

“When your time has come for your third jab, please get it as soon as you possibly can,” he said on Sunday.

“We know that from even the early evidence that’s been provided that the third jab is quite efficacious in terms of protecting us from this new variant.”

There are three confirmed Omicron cases in Victoria – a returned traveller from the Netherlands who is in hotel quarantine and two people who sat together in the same row on a flight that landed in Melbourne from Dubai on November 30.

A third person who also sat in the row has tested positive for COVID-19 and genomic sequencing is underway to confirm the variant.

Testing is also being conducted in relation to four other passengers on the same flight and three household contacts of a case.

There was no update on the result of the testing in the daily chief health officer update, released on Sunday afternoon.

However, it was confirmed that from 11.59pm on Sunday, fully vaccinated travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, will no longer be required to undertake 14 days in hotel quarantine.

Like other international travellers, they will instead be required to self-quarantine for 72 hours, get tested within 24 hours of arrival, and then get tested again between days five and seven of their return.

Premier Daniel Andrews has repeatedly maintained the state is not chasing an “Omicron-zero strategy”, describing it as unachievable.

The new variant, first discovered in South Africa, does not appear to cause more serious illness.

On Friday, Mr Andrews made a formal pandemic declaration that will apply to the entire state from 11.59pm on Wednesday, when the current state of emergency expires.

It is the first since new public health laws came into effect, allowing the premier to declare a pandemic and the health minister to enforce orders such as lockdowns, mask-wearing, vaccination mandates and quarantine.

Protesters gathered again outside parliament in response to the new laws and vaccine mandates.

“You have to wonder what people are protesting about. I mean, they suggested they are protesting about freedom. Well, we’re free” Mr Wynne said.

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