Victoria’s deputy premier has blasted a plan to create a ‘schools bubble’ to get children back in the classroom – as the state recorded 445 new Covid-19 cases and two deaths from the virus.
Of the new cases, only 129 are linked to the rest of the outbreak – sparking fears infections will continue to rise as Melburnians endure their sixth week of the city’s gruelling lockdown.
The two deaths include a man in his 20s and a woman in her 80s.
Deputy Premier James Merlino on Tuesday hit out at a proposal by the Victorian Opposition to turn schools into Covid-safe ‘bubbles’ where they could play sport, music and go to assemblies.
‘There are elements of their so-called plan that fly in the face of public health advice,’ he said.
‘For goodness sake, we’ve got secondary schools that have 1,500 to 3,000 students.
Deputy Premier James Merlino on Tuesday hit out at a ‘ridiculous’ proposal by the Victorian Opposition to confine students to their campuses as part of a ‘schools bubble’
The state government is continuing to develop a roadmap out of lockdown, including a plan to return students to classrooms in term four (pictured, a local exercises in Southbank on Monday)
‘It’s not just the students, it’s the teachers, all the staff, and their families, I mean, it’s just a ridiculous idea.’
Year 11 and 12 students in Victoria have still yet to find out when they can return to the classroom.
Mr Merlino said the state’s back-to-school strategy was ‘well-advanced’ and officials were working on a plan this week to return to on-site learning.
The deputy leader also hit out at a Fitzroy principal who encouraged parents to send their children into school during Victoria’s lockdown.
The state’s single-dose vaccination rate has meanwhile reached 67.5 per cent, with one million jabs in arms expected across Victoria by Wednesday.
While the latest tally is a slight drop from Monday’s 473 infections – the highest daily total in this outbreak – authorities have warned people to remain vigilant as tearooms in essential workplaces pose the greatest risk of transmission.
Officials have launched a crackdown on construction workers amid concerns the state’s Covid crisis has become a pandemic of the young and vaccinated, with alarming new data revealing the regions with the lowest jab numbers.
The latest federal data from September shows Melbourne City Council area has the lowest vaccination rate of any LGA with a first dose rate of 54.2 per cent followed by the Hume region at 55 per cent, according to Covid Live.
Statewide, only about 40 per cent of eligible Victorians are fully vaccinated and around 65 per cent have had their first dose – after 36,615 vaccines were administered in the past 24 hours.
The lagging vaccination rate places Victoria more than three weeks behind NSW in reaching the 70 per cent double dose target, which the northern state expects to hit in mid-October.
Meanwhile, compliance and vaccination blitzes have been launched across the Victorian building industry, with the sector put on notice it could lose its ability to keep working during lockdowns.
Some 13 per cent of the state’s cases have been traced to building sites, with tradies lashed at Monday’s Covid briefing for regularly ignoring lockdown rules and spreading the virus 20km across Melbourne.
The industry will be subjected to an extraordinary ‘zero tolerance’ Covid crackdown with fifty compliance teams deployed to sites across the state to ensure workers are following mask orders and social distancing properly.
This graph shows the progression of Victoria’s Covid oubreaks as the state recorded 445 new cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday
All but 38 of the new infections reside in Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs, which are subject to a three-week vaccination blitz (pictured, health workers at a vaccine hub in Melbourne on Monday)
From July 1, on-the-spot fines for authorised worker breaches increased to up to $1817 for individuals and up to $10,904 for businesses.
Meanwhile, Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs – where all but 38 of the infections recorded on Monday reside – will be subject to a three-week vaccination blitz.
Health Minister Martin Foley said 87 per cent of active cases were aged under 50, with 585 aged under 19.
‘This continues to be a pandemic of the young and the unvaccinated,’ he told reporters on Monday.
VICTORIA’S CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY COMPLIANCE BLITZ
A four-week compliance blitz will be carried out by the state government’s Industry Enforcement and Engagement Operation.
About 20,000 priority Pfizer appointments will made available to construction workers at all sites across Victoria from Monday until September 26.
The Ford Campbellfield site, the Heidelberg Repat, Eagle Stadium in Wyndham, and the former Bunnings in Melton will open for walk-ups for construction workers from 8am until 11am over the next fortnight.
Anyone who works at a site where civil works, building or construction activities take place will be eligible.
‘Our construction industry is critical to our state, but what is even more important is vaccinating each and every Victorian so we can slow the spread of the virus,’ state treasurer Tim Pallas said.
‘The construction sector’s ability to remain open is on a knife’s edge, and to ensure they can keep building, people need to get vaccinated and follow the rules.’
Mr Foley said 89 per cent of the 157 Victorians fighting COVID-19 in hospital were unvaccinated, while 11 per cent had received one dose.
COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said an increasing number of cases had been linked to the construction industry, which is also subject to a vaccination blitz and compliance crackdown from Monday.
He identified tearooms of essential workplaces as the ‘most dangerous place’ to contract the virus, given people drop their guard and their face mask to eat and drink.
Mr Weimar said there were six COVID-19 cases connected to an outbreak of V/Line staff, with transmission having occurred in the train driver’s break room.