Victoria eases isolation rules for workers

By Emily Woods
Victoria has recorded 37,169 new COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths in the latest reporting period. (AAP)

Victoria will ease isolation rules for more workers, including transport and education, as COVID-19 continues to impact businesses and services.

The state recorded 37,169 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday with health authorities managing 221,726 active cases.

Twenty-five deaths were reported, while there are 953 patients in hospital, including 111 in intensive care of which 29 require ventilation.

New isolation rules came into effect on Thursday for supermarket retail workers and those who work in the manufacturing, distribution or packaging of food.

Ahead of a national cabinet, Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria will ease close contact isolation requirements in several industries from 11.59pm on Tuesday.

"We can also add emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport and freight," he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

"Exempting those workers ... is a common sense way in which we can keep those services and important parts of our society as close to normal as possible."

Workers in these industries will be exempt from isolating if they become a close contact, however they must be asymptomatic, undertake daily rapid antigen tests for five days and return a negative test before working.

Mr Andrews met with supermarket executives on Wednesday and heard they were facing truck driver availability challenges.

"Last week was about distribution centres and some bottlenecks there, this week is about truck drivers," Mr Andrews said.

"It's not so much about the availability of that stock, it's about moving that stock from one part of the state to another."

The number of Victorians over 18 who have received a booster vaccine has risen by two per cent, to 20 per cent.

The premier said there are more than 250,000 booster appointments available.

"Nothing's more important at this stage in our fight against this global pandemic than those who are eligible for a third dose or a booster going and making an appointment," he said.

Meanwhile, new rules requiring hospitality and entertainment venues to close indoor dancefloors also kicked in on Thursday.

Dancefloors at weddings will be permitted as guests can be easily tracked down.

Mandatory booster arrangements have also kicked in, requiring key workers currently eligible for a third dose to get it before February 12.

The rules apply to disability, health and aged care workers, as well as those working in emergency services, corrections, quarantine and food distribution.

New rules in hospitals mean anyone visiting must be fully vaccinated or return a negative RAT before entering, and wear an N95 mask.

Aged care residents can only have five visitors per day, who must return a negative RAT.


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