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Victorian authorities are expecting the number of healthcare workers furloughed due to illness and burnout to continue to rise in the coming months as a result of new Omicron subvariants spreading in the community.

During a press conference this morning, Premier Daniel Andrews said almost 1550 health workers and 150 ambulance paramedics were off work earlier this week due to being sick, symptomatic or isolating for COVID-19.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.Credit:Joe Armao

He said that number was expected to remain stable or increase in the coming weeks as new Omicron substrains with a greater ability to evade vaccine immunity spread across the state.

The BA.4 and BA.5 substrains now account for about 40 per cent of wastewater detections in the state and are expected to overtake BA.2 as the dominant COVID-19 strain in Victoria.

The Victorian Department of Health anticipates the spread of the substrains will result in an increase in cases – including re-infections – as well as hospital admissions and deaths.


Andrews acknowledged the state’s health system was under “extreme stress”, but he said the crisis unfolding at Victorian hospitals was the result of pandemic pressures and staff burnout, not a lack of government funding.

“No one wants a situation where there’s extreme stress on our system, but that’s where we find ourselves. Political games and trying to weaponise this for political advantage is no way forward,” he said. “That’s about politicians, I am about patients and making sure that we’ve got enough resources.”

Andrews’ comments come after a new study in the Medical Journal of Australia found ambulance ramping times in Victoria were blowing out years before the pandemic, putting the lives of patients at risk.

Questioned by reporters about the crisis, he said the state government had “reported the very best ambulance response times ever” before the pandemic.

“We repaired the damage that others did, and we will repair the damage that this virus has done as well, not through politics, but through unity, through respect, through honesty,” Andrews said.

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