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Vic drops booster interval to three months

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Victorians can now get their COVID-19 booster shot sooner, with the government shortening the interval from the second dose down to three months at state hubs.

The state recorded 20,769 new COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths on Wednesday, 10,726 from PCR tests and 10,043 from rapid antigen tests.

Premier Daniel Andrews said public health teams recommended the wait time between COVID-19 second dose and booster be reduced from four months to three "effective immediately".

"The total number of people eligible increases substantially by two million Victorians and it will help us get more people third-dose boosted quicker than would otherwise be the case," he told reporters in Melbourne.

New South Wales also reduced its time frame on Wednesday.

The premier's announcement comes ahead of a "booster blitz" beginning on Friday, with more walk-up capacity and 60,000 more appointments available.

State-run hubs in Sandown, Bendigo and at La Trobe University will also extend their hours.

Meanwhile, 20 Australian Defence Force personnel will arrive in Victoria on Thursday, to help with driving ambulances and freeing up paramedics.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the extra support on Wednesday, after Mr Andrews requested assistance.

There are also 12 Australian Public Service workers helping Victorian authorities to take triple zero calls, due to rising demand.

It comes as a "code brown" declaration for Victoria's hospital system came into effect at midday on Wednesday.

There are 1173 Victorians in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 21 on Tuesday's figures, of which 125 are in ICU and 42 on ventilation.

Authorities are expecting hospital admissions from the current Omicron wave to skyrocket in the coming weeks, prompting the code brown alert to ensure hospitals can postpone or defer less urgent care.

Some hospital staff may be reassigned or recalled from leave, however leave will only be cancelled if "absolutely necessary".

A code brown of this scale has never previously been declared across the Victorian health system.

It applies to all metropolitan Melbourne public hospitals and major hospitals in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Albury Wodonga and Traralgon.

More than 4000 healthcare workers are currently isolating after either testing positive for COVID-19 or becoming close contacts.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Karen Price said the change would likely funnel more patients to GPs and general practice teams, placing them under increasing pressure.

"GPs and general practice teams will step up once again and do all we can for our patients, but we will need a helping hand from government," Dr Price said, suggesting several federal reform commitments for the upcoming election.

© AAP 2022

Image: (AAP Image/Chronis)

Tags: coronavirus