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Victorians warned of challenging winter

The combination of flu and COVID-19 is set to create a difficult winter, Victorians are being warned.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday would not give a timeline for the removal of the remaining few coronavirus public health measures, including masks for hospitality and retail workers and some primary school students.

“At this stage I’ve got no advice that we’ll be able to take off those mask rules,” he told reporters.

“We are open and things are closer to normal than they have been for a long time.”

However, as the more contagious BA2 sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus strain starts to dominate in the state, the government has been pushing for people who have not yet had a third dose of vaccine to do so ahead of the colder months.

“Winter will be challenging, it always is whether you’ve got a pandemic or not, flu for instance, always knocks our health system around every single winter,” Mr Andrews said.

However, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said it was time for the state to do away with masks completely and “move on” from the pandemic.

“How’s it fair that there’s 60,000 people at the MCG, sanctioned by the state government, but kids in primary school in grades four, five and six are wearing a mask? That’s ridiculous,” Mr Guy told reporters.

Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll on Thursday confirmed he had contracted COVID-19 after his daughter tested positive on Saturday.

Mr Carroll said he was managing his symptoms and his daughter was doing well.

His positive result comes after Health Minister Martin Foley went into isolation on Wednesday afternoon after a family contact contracted the virus.

The state reported seven deaths and 9752 new cases on Thursday.

The Department of Health said those who died were aged in their 70s, 80s and 90s. One of these deaths occurred last week, five occurred in February and one occurred in January.

So far 63.1 per cent of Victorians aged 18 and over have had three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

There are 197 people in hospital with coronavirus, including 23 in intensive care with four on ventilators.

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