Department of Health

Chief Health Officer Update - 28 July 2023


COVID-19 Weekly Data

The seven-day rolling average of patients with COVID in Victorian hospitals is 122, a decrease of 2 per cent from last week. There are currently 118 COVID patients in Victorian hospitals.

There are currently 2 COVID patients in intensive care. There are no cleared cases in ICU. There is 1 COVID patient on a ventilator. The seven-day rolling average of patients in intensive care in Victorian hospitals is 3. In the past three months, 3,210 COVID patients were hospitalised in Victoria.

Of Victorians aged 18 and over, almost 20 per cent have recorded a vaccination or COVID diagnosis in the past six months. This means 4.2 million Victorians are eligible for a 2023 booster dose.

Of Victorians aged 65 and over, 51 per cent have recorded a vaccination or COVID diagnosis in the past six months. The remaining 49 per cent are recommended to receive a COVID vaccine whenever possible. Of Victorians aged 50 to 64, almost 22 per cent have recorded a vaccination or COVID diagnosis in the past six months.

A total of 43 COVID-related deaths were reported to the department in the past week. An average of 6 deaths were reported each day in the past week. The total number of reported COVID-related deaths in Victoria since the pandemic began is 8,276.

Epidemiological summary

COVID-19 hospital admissions continued to decrease this week, with the level of COVID wastewater detections also at relatively lower levels. This indicates a sustained reduction in the number of infections in Victoria.

Transmissions continue to be driven by multiple Omicron recombinant XBB sublineages, accounting for 76 per cent of circulating variants from wastewater surveillance. This includes XBB.1.16 (26 per cent), XBB.1.5 (4 per cent), XBB.1.9 (18 per cent), and other mixed XBB sublineages (27 per cent). Other variants include CH.1.1 (7 per cent) and XBC (14 per cent).

Victoria's new Chief Health Officer

The Department of Health would like to note that today is Professor Brett Sutton’s last day as Victoria’s Chief Health Officer.

We once again thank him for his incredible contribution to Victoria since he started in the role in 2019 and wish him every success in his new position at the CSIRO.

Dr Clare Looker will be Victoria’s Chief Health Officer for the next 12 months, beginning tomorrow.

Dr Looker is an experienced public health physician and has held multiple senior leadership roles since joining the Department’s public health team in 2016, including as Deputy Chief Health Officer throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is highly regarded in the field and has a strong background in public health medicine, particularly in communicable diseases, environmental health and epidemiology.

Dr Looker has also worked in clinical medicine and as an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Dr Looker was recognised as an Established Leader in the 2022 Victorian Public Sector Women Awards.

COVID-19 communications

The weekly Chief Health Officer Update media release and social post for COVID-19 has been discontinued, with the last report and post issued on 28 July 2023.

This change reflects the global shift from the emergency pandemic response to managing COVID-19 as a significant respiratory virus. This follows similar changes from other Australian jurisdictions.

The Victorian Department of Health will continue to report on key figures and trends online each week.

Victoria maintains a comprehensive COVID-19 surveillance system, which includes analysis of hospitalised COVID-19 cases, mortality, wastewater surveillance, PCR results and range of other state and national surveillance systems.

Steps to protect yourself and others

Protecting yourself from getting infected is the best way to protect yourself and the community. If you don’t get COVID, you can’t spread COVID.

These six steps can help you stay ahead of COVID:

  1. Wear a mask: a high-quality and well-fitted mask can protect you and others from the virus.
  2. Get your 2023 booster: new bivalent vaccines targeting Omicron variants are available at your GP or local pharmacy. To find out if you’re eligible for your next booster, visit Better Health ChannelExternal Link . Flu vaccines are also now available.
  3. Let fresh air in: open windows and doors when you can – it reduces the spread of the virus.
  4. Get tested: if you have symptoms, take a rapid antigen test.
  5. Stay at home: if you have COVID, you should stay at home for at least five days and until you have no symptoms.
  6. Talk to your doctor: if you are at risk of falling very sick, you may be eligible for COVID and influenza medicines – and early testing and diagnosis are important. With expanded criteria, more people are now eligible for COVID medicines.

RATs available through local councils

All Victorians are eligible to pick up two free packets of rapid antigen tests (RATs) through their local council.

The council RAT distribution program is currently operating across more than 400 local sites, such as libraries and council customer service centres. The program is open to all Victorians, with all eligibility requirements now removed.

Individuals can collect up to two packets for themselves plus up to two packets for each household member per visit, while people with a disability or their carer can collect up to four packets of tests.

Testing, especially with any compatible COVID symptoms, is critical to help with early detection and to protect others. It also allows for appropriate care and timely treatment.

Contact details for participating councils can be found on Better Health ChannelExternal Link .

Antivirals and other medicines

Oral antiviral medications remain highly effective against all currently circulating COVID subvariants to reduce severe disease and prevent death.

From 1 July, people aged 50-69 with one additional risk factor for developing severe disease are eligible for antiviral treatments.

To access these medications, you need a prescription from an authorised prescriber, such as a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner. You do not need to register your RAT result to get a prescription.

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

Information on eligibility can be found on Better Health ChannelExternal Link .

Reviewed 03 January 2024

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