Victorians will soon be able to buy rapid antigen tests from major supermarkets, as Melburnians are allowed to drive into the state’s regions for the first time in months.
The state recorded another 1,355 locally acquired COVID-19 infections on Saturday, with 21,095 active cases across the state.
Eleven Victorians, aged between 65 and 85, have died with the virus, bringing the toll from the latest outbreak to 293.
COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said 18 percent of the new infections were in children aged under 10, while two thirds of cases were aged under 40 and about one third under 20.
“This continues to be cases predominantly in our unvaccinated communities and predominantly affecting younger Victorians,” he told reporters on Saturday.
“So, please, particularly for those people in their 20s, go out and get vaccinated.”
From Monday, Victorians will be able to purchase rapid antigen tests from supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths, to test themselves for COVID-19 from home.
“Stick them in a drawer at home, if you feel symptomatic you can use the test to provide you that extra bit of reassurance—either you are OK or maybe you are not OK,” Weimar said.
“Clearly any positive test with a rapid antigen test needs to be backed up with a PCR, but these are tools that become more possible and as we start to move around.”
Thirty COVID-19 testing sites that were forced to close on Friday due to power outages from wild weather have all reopened today.
“If you weren’t able to get to the nearest testing site yesterday, please do so today,” Weimar said.
There are 747 people in hospital, with the seven-day average at 769. Of those, 135 are in intensive care with 83 on a ventilator.
More than 79 percent of Victorians aged over 16 are now fully vaccinated, and 92.3 percent have received a first dose.
Saturday was the state’s final daily COVID-19 briefing, with key information and statistics to instead be issued through a media release at 11 a.m. each day.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered outside the state’s parliament on Saturday afternoon after pandemic legislation was introduced by the Victorian government.
The protesters chanted “kill the bill” and other anti-mandatory vaccination messages.
The legislation passed the lower house on Thursday and will give the premier the power to declare a pandemic and extend it for three months at a time, for as long as considered necessary.
It will require the support of three crossbenchers to pass the upper house.
Melbourne and Victoria’s regions have been reunited after restrictions eased at 6 p.m. on Friday, ahead of the state hitting its 80 percent full vaccination target this weekend.
The border between Melbourne and the regions has now come down, masks no longer need to be worn outdoors, and capacity limits have increased for restaurants, pubs and cafes.
Indoor entertainment venues, gyms and retail have reopened to fully vaccinated patrons.
A 5,500-strong crowd is expected through the gates of Flemington Racecourse for Derby Day on Saturday, while 4000 music fans will gather at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in the evening.
By Emily Woods and Callum Godde