Victorian footy fans urged to stay home ahead of grand final decider

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Authorities in Victoria have raised fears that Victoria’s Covid case numbers could spike due to illegal grand final celebrations, with footy fans urged to stay home.

The AFL grand final is set to take place on Saturday night at Perth’s Optus Stadium after it was moved from the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the second consecutive year due to the Covid outbreak.

As the state recorded 847 locally acquired Covid cases on Saturday, Victoria’s Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said he was nervous celebrations for the clash between Victorian teams Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons.

‘I’m extremely worried large numbers of Victorians will say tonight, ”well just for tonight, we’ll all get together and have a good night out”,’ Mr Weimar told reporters on Saturday.

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‘We’ll take our masks off and we’ll scream and we’ll shout and have a good drink.’

‘And as a result of that, in six, seven days down the road, we’ve got another big cluster of cases,’ Mr Weimar added.

Mr Weimar noted that 45 per cent of Saturday’s cases were due to illegal household interactions, which is something they still see too much of.

On Friday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton advised footy fanatics not to gather in large crowds at football supporter bases after Saturday night’s result or Sunday as the city’s curfew will stay in place. 

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‘We don’t want to see crowds down at Whitten Oval, we don’t want to see crowds down at Gosch’s Paddock after the match or on Sunday, either in celebration or commiseration.’

‘It is those close contacts that put you, your friends and your households at risk,’ he added.

Mr Sutton said that the grand final match should be enjoyed at home with your household in whatever style you please and celebrate the game with friends and family online.

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‘Enjoy your fancy cheese boards or whatever way you want to enjoy it at home.

‘Put the barbecue on, put your iPad up, have your phones on FaceTime, cry and scream and laugh and joke over the internet to connect with friends and family, and enjoy the spirit of the day in full.’

The grand final decider is scheduled to kick off at 7:15pm AEST on Saturday.  

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After Victoria missed its vaccination deadline, the next set of restrictions to be eased have been pushed back a week later than planned.  

Health Minister Martin Foley has conceded the state is unlikely to hit 80 per cent first dose coverage of the eligible population by Sunday as initially forecast, with the figure currently sitting at 76.3 per cent.

‘We would expect that, certainly by mid to late next week, we’ll hit that,’ Mr Foley told reporters on Friday.

‘These projections bounce around based on all sorts of measures. Let’s all redouble our efforts over this weekend.’

There were 37,220 vaccines administered and 59,342 Covid-19 tests conducted in the last 24 hours. 

When that milestone is reached, Melburnians are set to be granted additional freedoms including the resumption of golf, tennis and cricket for up to five fully vaccinated adults and the expansion of the city’s travel limit from 10km to 15km. 

Mr Sutton said the initial roadmap target was ‘ambitious’ and he would consider a day-by-day ‘countdown’ for future 70 and 80 per cent double dose goals based on updated data.

‘We have to balance how people hook into those specific dates when they are clearly in flux,’ he said.

It comes as a significant number of police and riot squad members dispersed up to 80 protesters in Northcote on Friday afternoon, making 31 arrests.

Families and children enjoying the AFL grand final eve public holiday watched as a scuffle took place outside Northcote Plaza and angry protesters were led away by police at nearby All Nations Park.

Others in the park were stopped and asked for identification and their reasons for leaving home, while helicopters flew overhead and nearby streets were blocked off by police cars.

More than 200 people were arrested across Melbourne as part of the fifth day of the recurring protests, and police expect to issue 215 fines for breaching health directions.

Victoria recorded 733 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including a man who was at Wednesday’s protest in Melbourne’s CBD that centred on the Shrine of Remembrance.

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He is being treated in hospital and public health investigations are underway.

Some Victoria Police officers have been identified as close contacts of the man and will have to self-isolate.

Professor Sutton said it would take a couple of weeks to learn whether the protest was a super-spreading event.

The protests initially began on Monday in opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for the construction sector and the closure of building site tea rooms but morphed into a wider anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine movement.

‘They think that everything will be solved by taking a horse deworming tablet, Ivermectin, that gives you the runs and puts some people in hospital,’ Prof Sutton said.

‘Let’s not pretend these are rational individuals – they are absolutely whacky.’

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Meanwhile, Mr Foley announced the state will receive 32,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which will be distributed to state-run clinics, from the federal government next week.

‘Given some of the issues around Pfizer supply, particularly in the second half of October, we will be pivoting more of our pop-up sites to Moderna in the coming weeks,’ he said.

Mr Foley said the vaccine will largely go to the Palm Plaza pop-up clinic in Dandenong, where a COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow.

Some 300,000 doses will also be distributed to 700 pharmacies across the state, with a focus on Melbourne’s COVID-hit north and west.

A woman in her 80s from Moreland in the city’s north became Victoria’s latest coronavirus death on Friday, taking the toll from the current outbreak to 21.

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