Victoria records 445 new local cases as government eyes mandatory jabs for construction workers

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Victoria has recorded 445 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths amid reports the government is considering introducing mandatory vaccinations for construction workers.

On Monday, 36,615 people received a dose of a vaccine.

Of the new cases, 129 have so far been linked to existing patients and clusters.

The Department of Health on Tuesday said two people with COVID-19 have died. The department said 42,694 test results came back in the 24 hours to midnight on Monday.

The latest outbreak has peaked at 473 daily cases announced on Monday.

There are now 3799 active cases in the state.

Victorian Treasurer and Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas on Monday warned that the construction industry’s permitted worker status was not guaranteed, following reports of people working maskless.

“We’ll do everything that we can to ensure that the construction industry can continue in a COVID-safe way, but I have to say this … employers, unions are on notice. We’ve had significant transmission on building sites, and we simply can’t afford not to act if that continues to grow,” Mr Pallas said.

A senior government source, and an industry source, told The Age the government was considering making vaccines mandatory for the sector.

“There’s every chance it’ll be made mandatory,” said the state government source, who was not authorised to comment on the issue publicly, said.

Victoria’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said in a statement to its members last week that it supported vaccinations, but backed individual choice over a compulsory edict.

Cars enter a pop-up testing clinic in Brunswick. Credit:Getty Images

“If you are stood down or refused work based on your personal choice toward vaccination, we will represent you within the confines of the law,” the union wrote.

“The CFMEU has consistently stated that we believe in individual choice regarding vaccination.”

Nick Brown, co-founder of construction company Icon and the current managing director of Riversdale Co, said mandatory vaccinations will have to be accepted.

“I think that everybody will accept mandatory vaccinations that have to happen. This is one of those industries where you can’t just do things individually,” Mr Brown told radio station 3AW on Tuesday morning.

But it wouldn’t be without backlash, with Mr Brown saying he has lost workers who refused to get vaccinated for subcontracting jobs.

Mr Brown questioned why rapid antigen testing couldn’t be introduced for multi-storey sites.

“The outbreaks have happened on multi-storey sites where you can have control because you have one entry, you have a lift where people go up, why can’t we have rapid antigen testing?” he said.

“Then you know that everybody that you’re working with, everybody that you come in contact with, you understand doesn’t have COVID.”

Over the coming week, the state government will open 20,000 priority Pfizer and unlimited AstraZeneca bookings for the state’s 320,000 construction workers.

Teams of officials will also be sent to worksites to crack down on compliance with public health rules.

Victoria would become the first jurisdiction in the country to make jabs mandatory for construction workers if it commits to the plan.

Aged care is the only sector where vaccination is compulsory, while NSW has mandated all teachers be vaccinated by November 8.

It comes as casino giant Crown became the latest company to announce it has plans to introduce mandatory vaccinations for staff and a ‘no jab, no entry’ policy for visitors to its Melbourne, Sydney and Perth resorts.

“This is about protecting every Australian – we want to create a safe environment for people to come to work, and also for our guests to come to enjoy themselves,” Crown Resorts chief executive Steve McCann said in a press release on Tuesday.

The plan follows similar moves from Qantas, Telstra and Virgin Australia to introduce mandatory vaccinations for staff.

According to the federal Health Department’s data, 66.8 per cent of eligible people in Victoria have had one dose of a vaccine while 40.95 per cent have had two.

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