Department of Health

Chief Health Officer Update - 6 January 2023

06/01/23

COVID 19 Weekly Data

There were 12,349 COVID-19 cases reported in Victoria this week, a decrease of 25.3 per cent on the previous week. The average daily number of new cases this week was 1,764, down from 2,367 last week.

The seven-day rolling average of patients with COVID in Victorian hospitals is 689. There are currently 545 COVID patients in Victorian hospitals, with 35 COVID patients in intensive care, including 8 cleared cases. There are 9 COVID patients on a ventilator. The seven-day rolling average of patients in intensive care in Victorian hospitals is 32.

In the past three months, 5,597 COVID patients were hospitalised in Victoria. Of those hospitalised, 41.2 per cent had not received their third vaccine dose and 30.7 per cent were unvaccinated.

Of Victorians aged 50 to 64 years, 80 per cent have had their third dose and 31.8 per cent have had their recommended fourth dose. Of those aged over 65, 90.8 per cent have had their third dose and 68.2 per cent have had their fourth dose. 70.4 per cent of people aged 16 and over have had three doses.

A total of 108 COVID-related deaths were reported to the Department in the past week. An average of 15 deaths were reported each day in the past week. There has been an 8.4 per cent increase in the number of daily COVID-related deaths in the past month when compared to the previous month. In the past three months, there have been 734 COVID-related deaths in Victoria. Of those deaths, 44.3 per cent were unvaccinated and 50.8 per cent had not received their third COVID vaccine dose.

The total number of reported COVID-related deaths in Victoria since the pandemic began is 6,490. 

COVID-19 epidemiological summary

Covid hospitalisations dropped slightly in the past week, however COVID-related deaths have sadly increased. As flagged in previous updates, this was expected following recent periods of high COVID-19 transmission in the community.

Like last week, there were fewer cases reported but this is likely due to the continuation of the holiday period.

The current Covid wave is being driven by multiple Omicron variants. The most recent wastewater analysis shows the recombinant strain XBF makes up the highest proportion of detections (29 per cent), followed by BQ.1/BQ.1.1 (18 per cent) and BA.2.75 and its sub-lineages (22 per cent). A group of variants that cannot be classified due to new mutations made up 21 per cent of wastewater detections. Separately, the BR.2.1 variant has shown rapid growth in sequenced case samples.

The genomic outlook is rapidly changing and is difficult to predict with evidence of newer subvariants, in particular XBF, outcompeting other subvariants over several weeks. This has contributed to hospitalisations, putting continued demand on the health system. 

The new subvariant XBB.1.5 has been detected in Australia, with four cases in Victoria to date. This will be monitored for expansion and clinical impact over coming weeks. It is clear that XBB.1.5 has shown competitive advantage over other variants and is predominating in the US and likely to impact case numbers and hospitalisations there as a result. With Australia’s most comprehensive wastewater surveillance, Victoria is well-placed to monitor the emergence of this variant locally. All the protections outlined below work to protect you and others from the impacts of COVID-19, regardless of variants.

An increase in social gatherings and events over the summer holiday period have added to the transmission risk. However, by taking the simple preventative steps outlined below, that risk can be reduced. 

Safe gatherings over the holiday period 

The risk of Covid infection can increase through large family and social gatherings. It is important to consider older family and friends and those who may be more vulnerable to severe Covid illness.

Plan ahead this summer and consider the following tips to ensure you can enjoy the festivities safely.

  • Plan your party or family gathering outside when possible
  • Get tested if you have symptoms or you’re going to a party or family gathering
  • Keep homes well ventilated, with windows and doors open
  • Wear a high-quality mask, especially where you can’t physically distance from others
  • Isolate for at least five days and until you have no symptoms
  • Check if you are eligible for Covid medicines
  • Get your next vaccine dose
  • Protecting yourself is the best way to protect you and the community – If you don’t get Covid, you can’t spread Covid

For more information on ways to protect yourself and others, visit the Coronavirus website.

Updates to testing 

Victoria’s remaining state-run PCR testing sites closed on 31 December 2022. Rapid antigen tests remain the primary tool for Covid detection, and a positive result enables access to antivirals for those eligible.

Individuals at high risk of severe illness or those symptomatic and eligible for antivirals who test negative on a RAT should see their primary care provider or a GP Respiratory Clinic to access PCR testing to ensure early detection and effective treatment.

Many local councils are offering free RATs to all Victorians. Preparations are underway to expand this service to even more councils until June 2023.

Contact your local council to see if they are participating and for more information visit the Coronavirus website.

Access to antivirals over the summer break

If you require a prescription for a Covid medicine and can’t get an appointment with a GP or a GP Respiratory Clinic over the holiday period, contact the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department.

Early testing for Covid and diagnosis are essential to access Covid medicines. For most Covid medicine to work best, you must take it within five days of getting sick – the earlier the better.

Information on eligibility can be found at the Coronavirus website

To access the most up-to-date information on Covid in Victoria, visit the Victorian Coronavirus website or call the Corona

Reviewed 06 January 2023

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