Date issued: 17 March 2023
Issued by: Office of the Chief Health Officer
Issued to: Clinicians and the Victorian public
COVID-19 Weekly data
There were 3,960 COVID-19 cases reported in Victoria this week, an increase of 20 per cent on the previous week. The average daily number of new cases this week was 566, up from 474 last week.
The seven-day rolling average of patients with COVID in Victorian hospitals is 114. There are currently 116 COVID patients in Victorian hospitals and 7 patients in intensive care. There are 2 cleared cases in ICU. There are 4 COVID patients on a ventilator. The seven-day rolling average of patients in intensive care in Victorian hospitals is 5. In the past three months, 3,468 COVID patients were hospitalised in Victoria.
Of Victorians aged 50 to 64 years, 80.3 per cent have had their third dose and 33.6 per cent have had their recommended fourth dose. Of those aged over 65, 91.1 per cent have had their third dose and 70 per cent have had their fourth dose. 70.8 per cent of people aged 16 and over have had three doses.
A total of 29 COVID-related deaths were reported to the department in the past week. An average of 4 deaths were reported each day in the past week. This represents a 79.1 per cent decrease when compared to the same period the previous month.
The total number of reported COVID-related deaths in Victoria since the pandemic began is 7,399.
COVID-19 epidemiological summary
There has been an increase in COVID cases and hospitalisations this week indicating the beginning of a modest rise in community transmission. Recent transmission has been driven primarily by waning immunity and influenced by multiple emerging Omicron sub-lineages.
The Omicron recombinant strain XBB.1.5 is now the most prevalent COVID variant in weekly wastewater detections, accounting for 39 per cent of detections. There has been a rapid growth in detections in the past six weeks.
XBF now represents 18 per cent of detections, followed by CH.1.1 (14 per cent) and other BA.2.75 sub-lineages (combined 8 per cent), and BQ.1/BQ.1.1 (2 per cent). A group of variants that include those at low levels, and those which cannot be classified due to new mutations, make up 19 per cent of detections. Omicron recombinant strain XBB.1.9.1 is also being detected and has a similar genetic profile to XBB.1.5.
Steps to protect yourself and others
As we are at the onset of a new wave, protective steps will help reduce transmission and the impact on the health system. Now is the perfect time to get your 2023 booster vaccine, if you’re eligible.
Protecting yourself 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:
- Wear a mask: a high-quality and well-fitted mask can protect you and others from the virus
- 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 the Coronavirus website.
- Let fresh air in: open windows and doors when you can, it reduces the spread of the virus
- Get tested: if you have symptoms, take a rapid antigen test
- Stay at home: if you have COVID, you should stay at home for at least five days and until you have no symptoms
All Victorians who have not had a COVID vaccination or confirmed infection in the past six months are now eligible for a booster. This is irrespective of how many prior doses a person has received. The national eligibility change follows advice from ATAGI.
For those not infected or vaccinated in the past six months, a 2023 booster is recommended for:
- All adults aged 65 years and over
- Adults 18-64 years who have medical comorbidities or disability with significant or complex health needs
For those not infected or vaccinated in the past six months, a 2023 booster should be considered for:
- Adults 18-64 with no risk factors for severe COVID
- Children and adolescents aged 5-17 who have medical comorbidities or disability with significant or complex health needs
Victorians are encouraged to book a free booster appointment through their local GP or pharmacy. You can find your nearest vaccination provider through the Vaccine Clinic Finder.
RATs available through local councils
All Victorians are eligible to pick up two free packets of 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 now 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 at the Coronavirus website.
Antivirals and other medicines
Oral antiviral medications remain highly effective against all currently circulating subvariants to reduce severe disease and prevent death.
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.
Advice for cases and contacts
Helpful information is available online for cases and household, social, workplace, education and other contacts.
See the checklists and recommend them to your patients.
COVID-19 symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath and loss or change in sense of smell or taste. If you are experiencing symptoms, wear a fitted face mask when you get tested.
The Department publishes expected wait times at testing sites as well as updated information about locations and hours of operation at Where to get tested.
For more information call the 24-hour Coronavirus Hotline at 1800 675 398 or visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) Victoria.
Current advice to clinicians
Clinicians are no longer required to report positive COVID-19 test results. Laboratories continue to be required to report positive COVID-19 PCR results. People who have tested positive using a rapid antigen test (RAT) should report their result to the Department of Health online or by calling 1800 675 398.
COVID-19 testing criteria
Practitioners should test any patients who meet the clinical criteria below:
- Fever OR chills in the absence of an alternative diagnosis that explains the clinical presentation* OR
- Acute respiratory infection (e.g., cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, or loss or changes in sense of smell or taste)
- Note: testing is also recommended for people with new onset of other clinical symptoms consistent with COVID-19** AND who are from the following cohorts: close contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19; those who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days; or those who are healthcare or aged care workers. Testing is recommended for those cohorts with onset of other clinical symptoms**.
- *Clinical discretion applies including consideration of the potential for co-infection (e.g., concurrent infection with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza)
- **headache, myalgia, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.
- Locations of respiratory assessment clinics and testing sites are available online and through an interactive map.
- Protecting our healthcare workers sets out the very latest in our understanding of COVID-19 and how it can spread within healthcare settings – both hospitals and aged-care facilities.
- Visit Infection Prevention and Control resource hub for updated guidelines.
Mental health resources
Many Victorians are feeling fatigued, isolated or lonely. If you need support for your mental health there are mental health resources you can access on our website.
- Financial support – for COVID-19
- Translated resources in over 50 languages
- Checklist for COVID-19 cases
Keep informed of emergencies affecting the health sector and critical public health issues impacting your work by subscribing to the Chief Health Officer’s alerts and advisories, or see our media releases and follow the Victorian Chief Health Officer on Twitter.