Covid Victoria: vaccine passport could first to trialled in Melbourne CBD

A key tourism area hard-hit by Victoria’s lockdowns could become the first to host a pilot program for vaccine passports.

Melbourne City Council will push to host the state government’s pilot program for vaccine passports in a bid to immediately reopen struggling businesses.

Councillors voted unanimously in support of putting forward the city as a trial location of the highly-awaited vaccine “health pass” system.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said there had been an overwhelming response from businesses – including bookshops and theatres – to take part.

“Small businesses are terrified that they won’t last until the state government’s road map finally allows them to trade properly,” Ms Capp said.

“This trial will deliver hope and insight to businesses big and small and provide the perfect opportunity to start reopening safely.”

Under the opt-in pilot program, businesses would be given a choice of participating in the program or remaining shut until they are allowed to reopen under the state government road map.

Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said Melbourne’s tourism performance levels had plummeted to where they were 20 years ago.

“We have literally lost all the growth of the last two decades,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of ground to make up and trials like this will give the industry a chance to open up and get some custom going.”

A government spokesman did not say whether the CBD would lead the pilot, but said targeted vaccinated economy pilots were currently being worked on.

Councillor Roshena Campbell said CBD business owners were at “breaking point”, and hosting the pilot program would provide critical relief.

But she said vaccine passports should be discarded as soon as vaccination targets are reached.

“Once we reach our vaccination targets, proof of double vaccination cannot be the price of entry to venues, but it can be a temporary ticket if it means our city opens sooner, with fewer restrictions and density limits,” she said.

BALLARAT FREE FROM SEVEN-DAY LOCKDOWN

Ballarat has been released from its snap seven-day lockdown, with health authorities confident the city’s Covid-19 outbreak has been brought un­d­er control.

From 11.59pm on Wednesday, Ballarat’s restrictions al­igned to the rest of regional Victoria with the scrapping of the rule on the six reasons to leave home. Parts of Point Lonsdale were also released from stay-at-home orders at the same time as Ballarat, allowing about 500 residents to enjoy freedoms shared by the rest of the beachside town.

The Borough of Queenscliffe and City of Greater Geelong’s boundary runs down the centre of Point Lonsdale, which resulted in the town being split in two after lockdown restrictions were introduced in Geelong but not Queenscliffe.

Mayor Ross Ebbels said easing restrictions was “sensible”.

“Vaccination rates are highest in the country and it’s one community,” he said. “Our community is happy, our traders are happy, so it’s great.”

It comes as Victoria recorded 628 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday and three deaths, including a Wyndham woman in her 50s, a man in his 70s from the same area, and a Darebin man in his 80s.

Authorities hold fears over a worsening outbreak at a Meadow Heights aged-care facility, with 17 residents and four staff infected. There are now 257 Covid-infected Victorians in hospital, with 58 in intensive care and 37 on ventilators.

Of those in hospital, 81 per cent were not vaccinated.

AGED-CARE STAFF LAX IN GETTING VAX

Victoria has recorded the nation’s lowest Covid-19 vaccination rate for aged-care staff.

At one facility, the Polish Retirement Home in Bayswater, just 60-69 per cent of staff have received at least one dose, according to My Aged Care data from September 21.

The alarming figures come after federal-funded nursing homes were required to declare their jab rates after a mandate came into force on Friday.

In Victoria, 98.6 per cent of residential aged-care workers in have had at least one jab, compared to a high of 99.5 per cent in Tasmania.

The national figure stands at 98.8 per cent.

More than 3100 staff across the country have until October 1 to get their first shot after being unable to secure an appointment before the deadline.

It is understood about one-third of those are in Victoria, where more than 200 workers have medical exemptions.

Some employees are being stood down from shifts, while others are required to wear personal protective equipment.

Paynesville Gardens Care Community and Lakes Entrance Care Community are among facilities that have declared staff have exemptions.

The Polish Retirement Home refused to comment.

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