The state government has scrambled to end confusion and anger over the vaccine mandate for hospitality, hairdressers, and beauty industry workers in regards to double-vaccination rules.
With just 12 hours until regional Victoria could ease its restrictions, Deputy Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie finally gave some clarity as to the rules surrounding the affected industries.
Venues which do not have all staff fully vaccinated can continue to operate for now as long as all staff have at least one dose.
However, they cannot take the next step in the government's roadmap and cannot allow more people in their doors. For hospitality venues, this means they would remain limited to 10 patrons indoors and 30 outdoors.
The new rules, allowing increased capacity for venues with double-vaccinated staff and patrons, begin on Friday October 22. This allows for opening to 30 people indoors and 100 outdoors.
Upon questioning from The Courier, the Department of Health and Human Services released this statement:
"Hospitality staff including cooks, waiters, and all other staff working in restaurants, pubs, and cafes will need to be fully vaccinated for venues in regional Victoria to increase capacity.
"If all attendees are fully vaccinated, venues can open to 30 people indoors and 100 people outdoors with density limits.
"This will come into effect when restrictions ease from 11.59pm Thursday October 21 and will also apply to other industries where staff and patrons are mixing.
"Hospitality businesses in regional Victoria can continue to open if the vaccine status of staff and customers is unknown, but will be limited to 30 people outdoors and 10 people indoors.
"Vaccines save lives and will allow us to open up in line with the roadmap."
The confirmation of new rules contradicted what the government had said earlier in the week, as well as what had been previously published in the roadmap.
Both Premier Dan Andrews and COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar had earlier this week said all hospitality staff would need to be double vaccinated for a venue to open at all as of Friday October 22.
There was never a mention of rules for a regional venue moving to eased restrictions.
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The comments also conflicted with earlier messaging which said hospitality staff had until November 26 to be fully vaccinated.
The fallout from the changing of the second-dose vaccination date has continued.
A spokesperson for UFS Dispensaries Ltd indicated there has been a marked growth in the number of people requiring inoculation.
"Demand for vaccination appointments has increased significantly this week," the UFS spokesperson said. "The UFS Vaccination Clinic organised an evening session for 200 people for Thursday evening, which was booked out."
The UFS spokesperson clarified when second-dose vaccinations could first be received.
"Patients are not able to receive their second dose any earlier than the recommended timeframe," the UFS spokesperson said. "The date of the patient's first dose is checked by the clinician on the Australian Immunisation Register prior to a second dose being administered."
With numerous employees concerned about being compelled to receive a second dose sooner than recommended, a spokesperson for the Commonwealth's Department of Health provided clarification.
"The product information (PI) for each vaccine is available on the TGA website. The Pfizer PI states the two doses should be at least 21 days apart and the AstraZeneca PI states the two doses should be between four and 12 weeks apart."
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advice around preferred dosing schedules was also addressed by the Department of Health spokesperson.
"The absolute minimum interval between the first and second dose, regardless of whether it is the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine, for the second dose to be considered as valid as fully vaccinated, is 14 days," the Department of Health spokesperson said.
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