Victoria braces for Omicron COVID-19 spike
Authorities are warning Victorians to brace for a "significant increase" in Omicron COVID-19 cases, but are going ahead with relaxing some of the state's mandatory vaccination rules.
From 11.59pm on Wednesday, shoppers will no longer need to prove they are vaccinated to visit non-essential retail outlets.
Mandatory vaccination rules for weddings, funerals and real estate inspections and auctions will also be scrapped, as will showing proof of vaccination for those aged 18 and under.
However, hair and beauty customers must still be fully vaccinated, as do all patrons of restaurants, bars and cafes, including weddings and funerals held at hospitality venues.
Mask mandates will also continue in all retail settings and for hospitality workers, but will not be required at weddings and funerals.
Deep cleaning rules will be scrapped for workplaces, tour and transport operators, gyms, theatres and cinemas , while elective surgeries will rise to 75 per cent capacity in regional areas.
The changes, part of new pandemic orders signed by Health Minister Martin Foley on Wednesday, will remain in place until January 12.
"Those tweaks are of course informed largely by the relative uncertainty that the Omicron variant brings, as we start to learn more about what that means," Mr Foley told reporters in Melbourne.
Victoria recorded 1405 new cases and a further three deaths on Wednesday, with another four Omicron cases taking the state's total to 10.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned the state will see a "significant increase" in Omicron infections, as he pointed to New South Wales' case spike and widespread infections in Europe.
"The story globally is it is doubling every two-to-three days. It is replacing the Delta variant," he said.
"There's good evidence, and it's getting stronger by the day, that having had your booster shot will protect you even more from serious illness."
He said 720,000 Victorians are currently eligible for a booster, after the interval was moved from six to five months from the second jab.
Overall, Professor Sutton said 330,000 people who are eligible for a vaccine had not yet received a first dose.
"Our behavioural surveys tell us that maybe 150,000 of those are determined not to get a vaccine," he said.
Those remaining had not "gotten around to it or are ambivalent".
There are 365 people in hospital, 84 of whom are in intensive care and 46 on ventilators.
Prof Sutton said 73 per cent of those in hospital were not fully vaccinated and that number grew to 91 per cent of those in ICU.
It comes as more than 700 Victorians are being sent into isolation after attending two Melbourne nightclubs on Friday night.
A positive Omicron case visited Sircuit Bar in Fitzroy between 9pm and midnight and Collingwood's The Peel Hotel from 11.30pm to 3am.
About 410 people were at Sircuit and 320 were at the Peel during those times, with all deemed close contacts.
They must get a PCR test immediately and isolate at home for seven days if fully vaccinated, or 14 if not.
© AAP 2021
Photo: Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley (AAP Image/Erik Anderson)