Masks for Victorian schoolkids as COVID cases soar
VICTORIAN children in Grades 3 to 6 will eventually have to wear face masks to class in an effort to lower COVID-19 transmission as schools begin reopening.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton today (Friday, October 8) confirmed the new rule as the state recorded five deaths and 1,838 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 – the highest daily tally of any state or territory since the pandemic began.
“We really want to have these measures in place early on to keep kids in school and to make sure that they are as safe as possible in the school environment,” he told reporters.
The new rule’s start date has not yet been set.
Masks will be recommended but not mandated for pupils in Prep to Grade 2.
Professor Sutton said there was reduced transmission of COVID-19 in schools in the US where masks are mandated.
Meanwhile, rules in Melbourne and other locked-down regions will be changed to allow people to remove masks at picnics to consume alcohol.
The state’s “border bubble” will also be extended, with the local government areas of Benalla, Bendigo, Buloke, Loddon and Yarriambiack and some LGAs in NSW including Wagga Wagga added back in from 11.159pm on tonight.
Professor Sutton said he will decide if Greater Shepparton and the Moorabool Shire will be able to exit their local lockdowns and join the rest of regional Victoria later on Friday.
Treasurer Tim Pallas confirmed the five deaths are a Shepparton woman in her 70s, a Knox woman in her 70s, a Moreland man in his 70s, a Whittlesea woman in her 80s and a Brimbank man in his 80s.
Their deaths bring the toll from the latest outbreak to 75.
It is the ninth straight day the state has reported more than 1,000 cases, with active infections soaring to 16,823.
There are now 620 Victorians in hospital battling the virus, an increase of 56 since Thursday, including 114 in intensive care and 76 on a ventilator.
Mr Pallas said about 66 per cent of COVID-18 patients in hospital have not been vaccinated, while 26 per cent are partially vaccinated and just eight per cent are fully vaccinated.
About 56 per cent of the Victorian population aged 16 and above are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while 84 per cent have received their first dose.
Once 70 per cent of the state’s population above 16 is fully vaccinated, expected around October 26, Melbourne’s curfew will ease, the travel limit will be expanded and venues can open outdoors to the fully vaccinated.
But Victorians will have to wait until the 80 per cent double-dose target is reached, forecast for November 5, for significant changes including Melbourne hospitality reopening for seated service and visitors to be allowed in homes.
In NSW, fully vaccinated adults will receive a swathe of new freedoms from Monday, with up to 10 adults allowed to visit homes, and people allowed to eat at restaurants and go to the gym.
Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday (Thursday, October 7) said he had no plans to alter Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown given the high daily case numbers.
The opposition is calling for a return of customer density limits at the 70 per cent target, paving the way for hospitality venues to open indoors.