IMAGE: A crunch in Victoria’s testing system means the true number of COVID cases in the state is higher than reported figures.(ABC News: Patrick Rocca)
Victoria’s COVID-19 hospitalisations are at 1,152, down from 1,229 reported on Monday.
It comes as more essential workers prepare to return to their jobs with the government expanding isolation exemptions for close contacts from midnight tonight.
A further 22 deaths were recorded in the state.
Of the patients in hospital, there are 127 in intensive care, 43 of whom are receiving ventilation.
Teachers and people who work in emergency services, prisons, freight and transport who are close contacts will be able to return to work from tonight, provided they test negative using daily rapid antigen tests and follow other measures.
Last week, the Victorian government announced it would expand the exemptions for essential workers in order to ease the impacts of staff shortages.
Under the new rules, workers who are close contacts must wear masks and be asymptomatic, they can’t enter shared break areas and employers must take steps to deploy the worker in areas where transmission risks are lower.
But there are concerns that rapid antigen test shortages will continue preventing people in key industries from returning to work.
Victoria’s police union says the force won’t be taking advantage of new isolation exemptions for close contacts due to a lack of rapid antigen tests.
Police Association Secretary Wayne Gatt said the union supported the change and described it as a “fantastic initiative” but said it relied heavily on the supply of tests.
“The number of tests that would be required, given the fact that we have about 800 police workers currently furloughed, is a significant one, in terms of the number of tests that would ensure people could be tested every day for five days,” he said.
Exemption not used for paramedics
Ambulance Victoria has stopped asking paramedics who are close contacts to return to work, the union representing ambulance workers said.
The emergency service been overwhelmed amid a rise in COVID-19 hospitalisations, with the number of staff furloughed due to infections or being close contacts putting further strain on the service.
Brett Adie, secretary of Ambulance Employees Australia, said workers who were close contacts were initially allowed to return to the job, but Ambulance Victoria stopped the practice last week due to staff feedback and data around the number of close contacts who test positive.
“The risk is if you’ve actually got these people who are household contacts and more likely to get COVID, that you’re actually going to then expose more people to COVID in the workplace,” Mr Adie said.
“You actually lose more people who are then COVID positive.”
There are now at least 235,035 active cases in the state.
The state has officially recorded 20,180 new COVID-19 infections. The true number of new cases in the community could be much higher as a result of immense pressure on overwhelmed testing networks.
The new cases were reported from 8,433 PCR results and 11,747 at-home rapid antigen tests (RATs).
About 24 per cent of Victorian adults have received three doses of a vaccine so far.