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Victoria reports 1,143 new local COVID-19 cases and three more deaths

Victoria has posted 1,143 new local COVID-19 cases and three deaths on Friday following 62,883 test results.

The figures follow a sharp jump in cases by almost 500 to 1,438 on Thursday, a new pandemic record for the state, with authorities laying the blame on illegal gatherings in Melbourne over the AFL grand final long weekend.

Health authorities believe at least 500 of Thursday’s cases are linked to AFL gatherings and are urging anyone who attended one to get tested, whether they or their companions are displaying symptoms or not.

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said if the jump in numbers becomes a trend, Victoria will go from being just below the Burnet Institute’s roadmap-linked case projections to the worst scenario of up to 2,900 daily infections by late October.

“We know that everyone is fatigued, tired of this. But today is a significant setback in how we manage this outbreak,” Mr Weimar told reporters on Thursday.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday said the state would continue with its plan to get out of lockdown.

But he added there may need to be a pause if numbers reach an unsustainable level before 26 October, when 70 per cent of the eligible population is expected to be fully vaccinated.

To help bring that target and the 80 per cent fully vaccinated benchmark forward, the time between Pfizer vaccine doses will be halved to three weeks in Victoria.

The interval change kicks in from Monday, allowing anyone who has received their first Pfizer dose to bring forward their second. The state’s vaccine booking system will be updated overnight on Sunday.

There will also be a shift in 88,000 Moderna vaccines from community pharmacies to state clinics to hasten the rollout, with pharmacists struggling to cope with the sudden demand.

Despite the federal government expanding Pfizer eligibility to Australians over 60 from Friday, the change is not being implemented in Victoria’s state-run hubs.