IMAGE: The government says the number of staff unavailable due to COVID-19 has dropped by around two-thirds.(ABC News)
Victoria has recorded the deaths of a further 18 COVID-19 patients.
The number of people in hospital after contracting the virus sits at 397, down from the 441 reported on Tuesday.
Of the people in hospital, 68 are in intensive care units and 13 are on ventilators.
The state has reported 8,149 new infections. That tally is comprised of 2,854 positive PCR tests and 5,295 positive rapid antigen test notifications.
It takes the number of officially reported active infections to 49,936, down from 50,967 on Tuesday.
About 52 per cent of the state’s adult population has now had a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Elective surgery poised to fully return by February 28
All elective surgery across public and private hospitals in Victoria will resume by the end of the month.
Metropolitan public hospitals will be able to perform Category 2 surgery from next Monday, February 21.
Private hospitals in metropolitan areas will be able to undertake up to 75 per cent of any elective surgery activity, increasing from the current cap of 50 per cent.
A further increase to 100 per cent capacity is scheduled for February 28, based on the discretion of Health Minister Martin Foley.
In regional Victoria, the cap for private hospitals will increase from the current 75 per cent to up to 100 per cent on February 21 – while regional public hospitals can continue to deliver any elective surgery based on their individual capacity.
The Victoria government paused all non-urgent elective surgery on January 6 in the face of surging Omicron cases.
Mr Foley said stabilising COVID cases meant more staff were available across the health system.
“The COVID numbers have stabilised and as a result we’ve seen a reduction of, at the peak, over 5000 staff in our public health system not being available,” Mr Foley said.
“With those numbers coming down to around 1400 people being furloughed off … we think this is a safe, prudent measure.”
There are currently 44 hospitals operating as COVID-19 streaming hospitals in the state, with each to be individually assessed on their capacity to resume surgery.
Mr Foley said that while the health system was returning to more normal circumstances, there was no guarantee restrictions would not be reintroduced to alleviate strain on healthcare workers.
“Our approach needs to be cautious and steady to ensure they’re able to cope without being further affected by fatigue and furloughs,” he said.