Paving the Way to Freedom

Victoria’s new roadmap to opening while preserving the health system.

What is the true essence of freedom?  We Victorians have braved in these last twenty months, missing birthdays, weddings, father’s days and sacrificing many more things that we love doing with our families and friends as we bargain time for 70% of Victorians to get vaccinated.

Opening up too soon – before people had the chance to get the jab – would mean the hospital system simply could not cope and catastrophic numbers of Victorians would become seriously unwell.

However, as more and more Victorians get that protection, there is the opportunity to open up.  Paving the pathway to open again will be difficult, but it is essential to move forward as a state.

Victoria’s new roadmap sets on a hopeful path to opening while preserving the health system and ensuring Victorians can still get the healthcare needed when required the most.

Based on expert modelling from the Burnet Institute and set against COVID-19 thresholds, including hospitalisation rates, and the vaccination targets already set out in the National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response.

The modelling has helped the public health teams get a picture of what hospitalisation rates could look like while cases are still rising and develop trigger points to indicate if the system is becoming overstretched – allowing time to implement further health measures and protect it from becoming overwhelmed.

While the Government is no longer aiming for COVID zero, it’s imperative it doesn’t jeopardise the health system as too many Victorians rely on it every day.

The COVID-19 thresholds detailed in the roadmap will be important measures to maintain moving through the different stages in order to safeguard the health system.

The Burnet modelling also shows that the key to opening up and reducing risk in Victoria will be making sure workers across the state are vaccinated.

To help ensure this, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer will assess vaccination requirements for all authorised workers in Victoria. These requirements and potential deadlines will be assessed progressively as the Chief Health Officer considers each sector. There are already vaccine requirements for aged care, construction, and freight workforces.

Following the recommendation from AHPPC to National Cabinet, healthcare workers will be the next workforce to have vaccination become a requirement to work. Healthcare workers will need to have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-October or provide evidence that they have an appointment to be vaccinated before 1 November to continue working.

The next workforce group prioritised for assessment will be school staff and childcare staff. We will also have more to say soon about Victoria Police and disability worker vaccinations requirements.

As Victorians reach 80 per cent double dose vaccination targets, the pathway lists certain venues for opening – but only on the condition that all eligible attendees to the venue are vaccinated.

While Victorians remain constrained by Pfizer vaccine supply from the Commonwealth, the Moderna vaccine has already made its way through pharmacies since late September. More GPs now have access to Pfizer and the Andrews government will continue to do everything to prioritise vaccination for those who need it – and make access to vaccinations as easy as possible for all Victorians.

When Victoria reaches 70 per cent double dose vaccination, changes will include an increase in numbers for public gatherings outdoors, funerals, weddings, and religious gatherings – with larger caps for people who are fully vaccinated.

Creative studios, amusement parks, entertainment venues, and hospitality will reopen with patron cap and density limits but only to fully vaccinated people.

There is very little precedence in Australia for fully vaccinated events, which is why the Government will conduct trials to support businesses as much as possible in the lead up to transitioning to a ‘vaccinated economy’ in this state and ensure the right systems are in place.

Both one-off events and specific venues will be considered – with businesses permitted to operate with higher patron caps if all staff and patrons provide evidence of full vaccination. Areas in regional Victoria with the highest vaccination rates and no COVID-19 cases will be the first to be considered for these trials.

Proof of vaccination options will also be part of the trials. The Service Victoria app will be integrated with a Medicare Certificate that shows proof of vaccination and other proof of vaccination options may also be trialled to determine what works best for both businesses and patrons.

Another key part of the freedom when Victorians hit 70 per cent double dose vaccination, getting more activities outside is a key part of keeping people safe and slowing case numbers. The Government want to see retail shopping in laneways and fitness classes in our parks.

Based on the overwhelming success of last Summer’s Outdoor Dining program, the Government will be looking to provide additional funding to councils and businesses to get even more activities outside and more details will be released about this soon.

For the final phase of the pathway to freedom, the Government will wait for more details to be developed as part of the National Plan as the state moves beyond 80 per cent double dose vaccination rates. We will update Victorians on that final phase in the coming weeks.

The most important phase of the freedom map is getting to the end of the year and celebrating Christmas for so many. That’s why the Government is working towards having 30 visitors to the home by late December – and with travel across both interstate and international borders open again, many families will be able to reunite.

The Premier has announced that ten thousand fully – vaccinated Melbournians will be able to attend the Melbourne Cup while thousands will be able to go to live music events. Victoria are now divided between choices – the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated?

Mr Andrews memorandum to all Australians and to the world is clear – ‘Victoria is open’. The vision is to get 80%Victorians vaccinated by that stage.

Daniel Andrews confirmed that Victorians are on the right path to ease restrictions end of October, with 86% of the population above the age of sixteen having had their first dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca and as per tally 58% having had both doses. “Whether you are a racegoer or not whether you are a fan of the sport or not, that’ll be a very important day for all Victorian.  Mr Andrews said.

Freedom to most of us in Victoria, especially in Melbourne will mean a lot of things that we take for granted, will be celebrated again. The simplest things like sharing a meal together, going to a restaurant, having a glass of wine, and most importantly, getting a haircut. These are the things people are enjoying now in New South Wales, particularly in Sydney, and it will soon be a reality in Victoria, especially in the greater Melbourne area.

The topic of vaccination has divided society; in reality, the meaning of freedom will be differing from person to person. As for now the road map to freedom is all about economic strengthening, about the sustainably of community’s and people’s future for the greater good of Victorians.

There will come a time when Victorians who choose not to get vaccinated will be left behind – it seems that time has now been firmly set within the pathway.

So, if you are yet to book your vaccination, now is the time.

(GDI News Desk)