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Victoria has recorded 1245 new coronavirus cases and six deaths, as state premiers push for the interval between a person’s second vaccine dose and their booster shot to be slashed, and pandemic advisers warn authorities to act now to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

Tuesday’s COVID-19 figures took the total number of active cases in the state to 13,355.

Melburnians queue for testing on Russell Street in the CBD on Monday.Credit:Justin McManus

There were 392 people in hospital in Victoria with coronavirus. Of those, 116 were in an intensive care unit, with 43 now cleared of the virus and 43 on a ventilator.

Another 14,483 Victorians received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a state-run hub, while 66,888 people queued up to get tested for the virus.

Of the state’s population over the age of 12, 92 per cent have now received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Case numbers were down from Monday, when Victoria recorded 1302 COVID-19 cases and the total number with the Omicron variant grew to 37.

State premiers will urge Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reduce the wait for a vaccine booster shot when national cabinet holds an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss public health measures to curb rapidly increasing case numbers in NSW and Victoria.

In advice to national cabinet seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee warned that Omicron could “strain health system capacity” even if the variant caused milder illness, recommending “minimal to moderate restrictions” and increased efforts to boost vaccine coverage.

Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter said quickly giving booster shots to people who were older, had waning vaccine immunity and possibly health conditions “just makes sense”.

“Right now, we’re facing a pretty serious wave of Omicron, and having the tools that are there to counter it makes sense,” she told Radio National.

“Reducing the interval at least to four months would … open things up to a number of more at-risk people to be protected from Omicron and I think would be the wise thing to do.”

Professor Baxter said the current delay in people waiting for COVID-19 test results presented an “extremely dangerous situation”, with results potentially not very useful, and people unwilling to isolate for a prolonged period of time.

Doherty Institute director Sharon Lewin said whether or not booster shots could be provided earlier depended on a number of things, including vaccine availability, and safety data.

She told Nine’s Today program there would be big implications for people if authorities decided boosters were necessary for people to be deemed “fully vaccinated”.

A growing chorus of pandemic advisers are warning authorities to act now to slow the spread of the Omicron variant as cases soar exponentially overseas. Some experts are calling for the immediate reinstatement of face masks in all indoor settings and a rethink on crowd numbers in bars and at the Boxing Day Test.

Professor Lewin said experts still did not know whether the Omicron variant caused milder disease.

However, University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely told 3AW on Tuesday morning: “It’s still a little bit early to say ‘it’s really, really mild’, but it’s clear to me, at least, that it is less virulent.”

“I think we’re somewhere between 10 and 50 per cent the virulence of Delta, and I think we can actually get that virulence down even lower with boosters,” he added.

Deakin University’s chair of epidemiology Professor Catherine Bennett said in an opinion piece for The Age that, while the Omicron variant’s arrival was “truly terrible timing”, hospitalisation numbers could be stemmed with basic measures, such as masks, social distancing, hygiene, and minimising indoor gatherings.

A mask mandate for all indoor public settings came back into effect in Tasmania at 12am on Tuesday.

The mandate applies to everyone over the age of 12 in the state, and includes indoor workplaces, such as offices, universities and schools.

With Dana Daniel, Lucy Carroll, Timna Jacks, Melissa Cunningham, and Aisha Dow

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