Victoria eyes new pandemic laws, records 1510 new cases

Victoria has recorded 1510 new Covid-19 cases and four deaths as new pandemic laws are set to be introduced to state parliament.

The health department confirmed on Tuesday the state is managing 24,715 active cases.

There are 817 people in hospital, 15 more than Monday, with the seven-day average at 789. Of those, 147 are in intensive care and 88 on a ventilator.

The latest deaths take the toll from the current outbreak to 234.

There were 55,679 tests processed and 28,232 vaccine doses administered at state-run hubs on Monday.

About 75 percent of Victorians aged 16 and over are now fully vaccinated.

The latest figures come as the state government is set to introduce new laws to parliament that would allow the health minister to make public health orders for the pandemic.

The Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 will give the premier the power to declare a pandemic and extend it in three-month blocks for as long as considered necessary.

The declaration will give the health minister "broad powers to make pandemic orders" on the chief health officer's advice.

A similar process is in place in NSW and New Zealand, where the health minister is directly accountable to parliament.

But the proposed Victorian laws go further, with an independent oversight committee to review the public orders and their impact on human rights, while public health advice will need to be made public.

The laws also introduce safeguards around protecting contact tracing and QR code information, while an aggravated offence will be created to "deter ... the most egregious pandemic-related behaviours".

Court-imposed penalties will be introduced to stop businesses receiving commercial benefit from breaching a pandemic order.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the bill aims to improve transparency.

"It will give the people of Victoria ... the assurances that public health responses are at the heart of what we do, but so too we are taking into account the issues of impact of the wider community," he told reporters outside parliament on Tuesday.

It will replace the current state of emergency, which expires on December 15.

The government has consulted with community groups, health and human rights experts and legal stakeholders on the proposed laws.

The bill is expected to pass the lower house but in the upper house it will require the backing of three of the 11 crossbenchers.

Animal Justice MP Andy Meddick and Greens leader Samantha Ratnam have indicated they will support the bill.

"These laws are better and fairer and highlight the importance of having people like the Greens in parliament to get better outcomes for the Victorian community," Ms Ratnam said.

Reason Party MP Fiona Patten wants to see the "devil in the detail" before giving it the "thumbs up".

"This is a first in Australia, and I actually expect that we will see other states do something similar," she said.

Victoria's opposition said the new powers would give the premier "more power with less accountability", as it proposed the constitution be amended to require parliamentary approval for emergency or pandemic declarations.

However, Mr Foley said the proposed laws were precisely what the opposition had called for weeks earlier, and described their reaction as "hysterical nonsense".

Tuesday's sitting is also the first since a vaccine mandate came into effect banning MPs from parliament if they refuse to provide proof of their vaccination status.


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