australia

Three new local cases; confusion over online jab bookings

More cases are coming to light as Victoria prepares to ease restrictions. Meanwhile, the online vaccination booking system is finally taking off — with a hiccup.

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Three new cases of coronavirus have emerged in the Victorian community overnight.

The infections come on top of two cases – linked to the Southbank townhouse cluster – announced Tuesday.

The Department of Health revealed that all new community cases are linked to known and existing clusters.

Three more cases were discovered in hotel quarantine, bringing the state’s total number of active cases to 55.

More than 17,500 tests were conducted on Tuesday and just under 15,000 vaccines were administered.

It comes as Victoria finally launched an online vaccine booking system on Tuesday — four months after the jabs rollout began — but it caused more confusion on day one.

Despite the state government reiterating that bookings for the first Pfizer doses had been suspended until at least the end of the week, many Victorians were still able to make appointments for the next few days at the site.

It comes as the blame game continues over the suspended rollout, with the state government accusing the Commonwealth of rolling back its offer.

Health Secretary Martin Foley warned Victoria would not be able to continue vaccinating at current levels while meeting its second dose commitments due to the planned state allocations.

“We can’t keep doing the first doses at this rate,” he said.

But federal government sources insisted supply was not the primary cause of Victoria’s problems with vaccine rollouts.
They said the state government needed to tune other states’ booking systems to provide certainty about the timing of appointments for the second dose.

Victoria’s vaccine booking system finally went live weeks after similar systems were introduced across the country.

But because the bookings for the first Pfizer dose were on hold until the end of the week, many people were confused when they could already make appointments for today. A Health Ministry spokesperson said it was not a technical glitch, but added: “There were still some remaining first-dose bookings in the system for the next week when the online portal was launched. These bookings are honored.”

It followed mass confusion on Monday when people were turned away from vaccine hubs and others were warned of waiting times of up to a month to get their first Pfizer dose.

People trying to book their second dose were told there would be a two week delay.

Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar assured the public on Tuesday that a second dose of Pfizer vaccine would be available to anyone who received their first shot.

“There is no fear here. There is no fear here. People who have had their first Pfizer should be confident and calm, they will get their second Pfizer,” he said.

The federal government is sending an additional dose of 50,000 Pfizer doses to Victoria, on top of a 100,000 dose boost already planned for this month.

Mr Weimar added that the state government was “hugely grateful” to receive the additional 50,000 doses. “They will all fall into the arms of the people in the next two weeks,” he said.

Hoping to announce further easing of restrictions on Wednesday or Thursday this week, Victoria registered two new cases of coronavirus in the community on Tuesday.

The latest cases were linked to a cluster in an apartment complex in Southbank, which was in lockdown last night as health officials poured into the building to test all residents.

A male resident was the first to be identified as testing positive on Saturday. There are now six positive cases linked to the cluster, including a baby.

Mr Foley would not be drawn into whether the cluster would affect an easing of restrictions, saying it would be considered “day by day”.

Australian Council Secretary Sally McManus warned that the delay in the first Pfizer doses meant that disability and aged care workers could not be vaccinated.

“These workers were in the 1A priority group, which took six weeks to vaccinate, mostly through workplace vaccination programs. It is June, the government has abolished workplace vaccinations and now there are no more injections available for anyone in that group under 50,” she said.

In the past week, the state system has administered 92,000 doses of Pfizer and nearly 35,000 doses of AstraZeneca.

By next week, some 67,000 bookings have already been made for Pfizer, of which about 58 percent are for the second dose.

“We need to keep space in the system so people can get their second dose,” a state government source said.

A total of 385,000 doses of Pfizer will be delivered to Victoria in June, all of which will be administered through state-run vaccination centers.

In July, Victoria will receive 560,000 Pfizer doses.

SOUTH MELBOURNE MARKET CLOSED FOR CLEANING

A popular Melbourne market has been closed for a deep clean after it was listed as a public exposure site to Covid-19.

The South Melbourne Market confirmed it would be closed on Wednesday after the health department designated the complex as a tier 2 exposure site.

It comes after a coronavirus outbreak at a nearby Southbank townhouse and apartment complex has increased to at least six nights.

South Melbourne Market management said in a statement on Facebook that a confirmed virus case visited the market between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm last Saturday.

“The safety of our traders, staff and community is our top priority and for this reason the market will be closed (on Wednesday) so that we can carry out a thorough thorough clean-up,” they said.

Read the full version of this story here.

THE RESTRICTIONS WILL BE EASED NEXT

A major easing of restrictions in Melbourne is expected to be announced within 24 hours – including the lifting of travel bans from Friday.

Plans to abolish the outdoor masks directive, a ban on home gatherings and the 25 km travel limit were discussed by senior ministers and health officials on Tuesday evening.

The proposed changes were expected to be presented at a cabinet meeting Wednesday morning, with an announcement potentially coming hours later if the number of new coronavirus cases was low.

Read the full story and see the list of changes here.

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