The health department on Wednesday confirmed there are now 19,861 active infections across the state.

The Mitchell Shire located north of Melbourne will be released from lockdown from midnight tonight, Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed following a stabilisation of virus cases.

“The Mitchell Shire vaccination rates have really taken off over the last few weeks and that’s an outstanding effort by those communities,” he told reporters.

The region will now be subject to the same restrictions as regional Victoria.

Teenager’s near-death virus ordeal

Saela, a 17-year-old student from Broadmeadows in the city’s north, delivered a powerful plea for everyone, especially young people, to get vaccinated after she spent two weeks in intensive care battling for her life against the virus.

The Year 11 student contracted the virus from her baby sister’s daycare centre.

“I thought I was safe, I was young and COVID usually affects older people,” she admitted.

“[But] In the second week of COVID … this is where it got worse for me.”

Saela and Michelle speak to media about her experience dealing with COVID-19.

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She spent close to a month at Box Hill Hospital, and 15 days in intensive care after contracting the virus.

At the time, she was the youngest virus patient in the state on a ventilator.

“My health progressively got worse and then one night I couldn’t stop coughing. I was struggling to breathe,” she said.

 “I was so scared; I was screaming, and I thought I was going to die and then I felt nothing. They had put me to sleep. “

“They woke me up nine days later. I had no idea what had happened or how much time had passed.”

Last week, she [Saela] was in school and next week she was in a coma.

The virus tore through her household of eight, with only her grandparents being fully vaccinated at the time as they experienced mild symptoms.

Mother Michelle spoke of her helplessness as she watched her daughter get sicker, while also battling the disease herself.

“When I got the call from the doctor to say that Saela’s health had deteriorated so rapidly and she was being transferred to the ICU and put on a ventilator, I was in shock,” she said.

“And before that call ended, I heard her screaming. I don’t know if it’s my imagination or if it’s a mother’s intuition but I heard her screaming.”

“Last week, she was in school and next week she was in a coma.”

“I was watching COVID rip through every member of my family and hurt them and it was so painful and I couldn’t do anything. I was alone. I was helpless.”

Expecting a wave of online abuse from anti-vaccination campaigners, she said her family were not actors or speaking from a script.

“Maybe anonymous people online will try and make her feel bad for speaking out, but they should know nothing will make her feel worse than COVID did.”

Saela is still recovering following her hospital stay and will bear the scar of her tracheotomy on her neck for the rest of her life.

She was not eligible for the vaccine at the time and said she wished she had been vaccinated.

 “There are a lot of people my age who think they’re invincible and don’t need the vaccine. They think they are young, they don’t have just like conditions, they won’t be affected,” she warned.

“But COVID almost killed me.”

Community vaccination blitz

The state government will roll out new vaccine pop-up clinics, located at local venues like gyms, shopping centres and local clubs.

The pop-up centres will operate for two to four hours a day, with no bookings required.

“These neighbourhood pop-up models are designed to support Victorians to get access to the vaccine, Pfizer in particular, in the most convenient, familiar and easy to deal with locations,” Mr Foley said.

The clinics will also be set up in culturally safe and protective locations “for those Victorians who might need that further reassurance as to the need to come forward and get vaccinated.”

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley speaks to the media.

Source: AAP

“It is about making sure that in those areas that are underrepresented in terms of the state average of vaccine, but overrepresented in terms of cases, that we drive the vaccine program and the other supports into those communities.”

Non-profit group Foundation House will also set up a clinic for newly arrived migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and marginalised people. 

Virus scare at neonatal unit

Visitors to the Royal Children’s Hospital will now have to undergo rapid antigen testing after a potentially infectious parent visited the newborn intensive care unit.

Hospital chief executive Bernadette McDonald told reporters a father visited the unit on Thursday and Friday last week and returned a positive result on Monday, notifying the hospital that evening.

Of the 29 babies in the unit at the time, two are tier one close contacts and the remainder are tier two, with the infants and their families all now isolating. No transmission to the babies has yet been found.

“It is a very challenging circumstance to find the balance between allowing mums and dads to come and see their children and spend time with their children … and trying to manage to keep everyone – families, staff, patients – safe from COVID-19,” Ms McDonald said.

CEO of The Royal Childrens Hospital Bernadette McDonald (left) arrives to speak to media during a press conference.

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Ms McDonald said while the numbers varied, on average there were about five patients at the children’s hospital with COVID-19 at any one time.

They are cared for in negative pressure rooms and the hospital currently has enough of those rooms to meet demand.

Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the scare could have been avoided entirely if rapid antigen testing was already in place.

“It’s again a failure of the Andrews government to prepare our hospitals,” she told reporters at parliament.

The hospital’s cancer ward was exposed to the virus at the beginning of this month, after a patient’s parent tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting over at least four days.

With AAP