More than 40 Victoria Police staff have been stood down and face losing their jobs after refusing to have a Covid-19 vaccine.
Victoria Police on Monday confirmed 34 police officers and nine Protective Services Officers had not complied with the vaccination order by the state’s chief health officer, as well as a specific command from the chief commissioner.
Exemptions from having the mandatory vaccine only apply if an employee is unable to be vaccinated due to a very limited number of medical issues, the force said.
Those refusing the jab have been referred to Professional Standards Command for failing to abide by an instruction of the chief commissioner and now face disciplinary action, which may result in their sacking.
They have been stood down and directed to take accrued leave.
It comes as a row brews over controversial vaccine mandates with all health workers across several states now obliged to get the jab, as well as all front-of-house staff in NSW and the Northern Territory.
Victoria Police on Monday confirmed 34 police officers and nine Protective Services Officers had been stood down for refusing to get the Covid vaccine. Pictured: Members of Victoria Police force through Melbourne amid anti-lockdown protests in September
The Police Association backs mandatory vaccinations and has been contacted for comment.
Under Victorian Government rules, all authorised workers in the state were required to have one dose by October 15 and be fully-vaccinated by November 26 to keep working.
Employees from more than 80 job types across dozens of industries are included in the mandate, including cleaners, farmers, priests, journalists, judges, film crews, personal trainers, bottle shop attendants, and priests.
The news comes as debate continues to rage over the controversial vaccine mandate which has been backed by unions and some business groups but criticised by others.
Announcing the policy earlier this month, Premier Dan Andrews said is was vital to stem the state’s Delta outbreak.
‘I would not be making this announcement if we didn’t believe that this was absolutely critical,’ he said.
‘There’s too much at stake. We’re not making this decision for fun; we’re not making it lightly or flippantly.
‘This is what has to be done to get us open.’
Victoria recorded a further 1903 new local cases and seven deaths on Thursday as the state prepares to reopen as vaccination milestones loom.
Victorian Government rules require authorised workers to have one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by October 15 and two by November 26. Pictured: A Melbourne nurse receives Pfizer in February
Meanwhile, the Victorian government has announced it would add shorter isolation to its list of rule tweaks when the state hits its 70 per cent double-dose vaccination target.
From 11.59pm Thursday, isolation orders for fully-vaccinated, non-household primary close contacts such as work colleagues and friends will be slashed from 14 days to seven.
They will need to return negative test results on their first and sixth day of quarantine to be free to leave their home.
Unvaccinated primary close contacts must isolate for the full two weeks, along with children under 12 who are still ineligible to be vaccinated.
With the state already managing more than 61,000 primary close contacts, Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said the changes would minimise the impact of reopening on businesses and customers.
‘It’s not our intention to be in a world where … every person in a pub is (a close contact) because one positive case has walked in for 15 minutes,’ he told reporters on Monday.
It is still recommended businesses split workforces into separate groups to avoid their entire staff being knocked out for a week.
‘It is exceptionally likely that come Thursday there will still be 22,000 people with COVID in the state,’ Mr Weimar said.
Bottle shop workers are among the more than 80 job roles listed as authorised workers in Victoria. Pictured: An liquor store employee unloads stock in Melbourne
‘There will be exposures in our shops, in our hospo and all of our other settings, and it’ll be down to how effective those control systems are as to minimise the impacts on other people around them at that time.’
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy welcomed the move but called for isolation requirements for the fully vaccinated to be scrapped altogether once the state reaches higher vaccination levels.
‘We’ll get to a stage beyond 80 per cent where that shouldn’t apply at all,’ he told reporters.
Melbourne and other locked-down areas of the state have been granted an early exit, five days ahead of schedule, when Victoria will hit 70 per cent double-dose coverage of those over 16.
Under the changes from Friday, restrictions for leaving home and the city’s nightly curfew will be dumped.
THE VICTORIAN WORKERS COVERED BY THE NEW COVID VACCINE MANDATE
From October 15, anyone leaving home to work in the following professions and industries in Victoria will need to have received at least their first Covid-19 vaccine dose:
Interpreters and cultural workers
Funeral or mortuary services
Retail goods workers supporting click and collect
Members of parliament and their electorate staff
Commonwealth agency services, including the Australian Border Force
Film, television and documentary workers already in production
Thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing
For the full list visit https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/authorised-provider-and-authorised-worker-list
Personal trainers will need to have received their first Covid-19 vaccine dose by November 9 to leave their home as an authorised worker
The state government has granted more freedoms than initially indicated in its roadmap, including allowing up to 10 visitors a day in homes and removing the travel limit within metropolitan Melbourne.
Pubs, clubs and entertainment venues can also host 20 fully vaccinated customers indoors in addition to 50 outdoors, while hairdressing and beauty salons will be able to open for up to five fully vaccinated people at once.
Retail in metropolitan Melbourne, however, must remain closed unless they can operate outdoors or with click and collect and delivery.
To facilitate the move outdoors, businesses and councils can apply for a share in $54.5 million of state government grants.
Restrictions will ease further when 80 per cent of the eligible population has received both vaccine doses, forecast by some data analysts to be as early as October 31.