Testing clinics forced to close in Victoria

The state recorded 1608 new cases and two deaths on Boxing Day – a drop from the 2108 cases and six deaths reported on Christmas.An estimated 30,000 people were forced into isolation on Christmas Day, with testing sites reaching capacity before 9am on Sunday.There were 72,519 tests carried out over Christmas in the state.It follows a week of strain on the state’s testing centres, with many closed or having agonising wait times in the lead-up to Christmas.The dilemma continued Boxing Day, with several sites closed completely.Testing sites at Albert Park, Montague Street, Bourke Street, Glenroy, Monash, LaTrobe Bundoora and Victoria universities were all closed before 9am as they reached capacity.People in line at The Alfred were told as early as 7.30am wait times would stretch out to four hours.Despite the drop in cases on Sunday, the state remains on edge as the Omicron variant continues to circulate and concern mounts about the spread of the virus at popular Christmas events and gatherings.Public health authorities are attempting to limit a new Christmas outbreak at St Paul’s Cathedral, after seven cases were linked to rehearsals and performances of the choir and orchestra for Carols in the Cathedral. In a statement, the Department of Health confirmed it was working with St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne.“It’s a useful reminder that the increased projection of aerosol particles while singing inside is associated with an increased spread of Covid-19,” it read. “We recommend singing outside or in a well-ventilated room (with windows/doors open), with shorter performances, mask wearing and physical distancing in use where possible.“It is important that anyone attending group singing over Christmas monitor for symptoms and don’t attend if any develop. People at high-risk of severe illness should reconsider participation in group singing right now.”Victorians had an indoor mask mandate introduced on Friday in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant within the community and across Australia.Residents as young as eight are required to wear one in all indoor settings except for private homes.It was also recommended that hospitality venues stick to seated service and people work from home if able to.When introducing the tougher restrictions, chief health officer Brett Sutton said reintroducing masks would have a “terrific impact on transmission”.“Please bear that in mind. Mandating wearing masks indoors, with the usual exceptions, is really critical,” he said.

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