Aus state targets construction workers in vax blitz

Construction workers in Australia’s Victoria are being targeted in a vaccination blitz as the state government battles to contain its soaring number of Covid-19 cases.

Victoria reported 445 new locally acquired infections on Tuesday, bringing the overall active cases to 3,799, reports Xinhua news agency.

Throughout the pandemic, Victoria has endured more frequent and lengthier lockdowns than any other Australian region.

The state capital of Melbourne has been the hardest hit of all, so far racking up almost 230 days in lockdown since early 2020. Yet the city’s condition is still steadily deteriorating.

Health authorities desperate to track sources of the virus are now concentrating their efforts on building sites, which account for about 13 per cent of the active cases.

Exacerbating the problem is that construction workers tend to travel longer distances than other workers meaning they have even greater potential to transmit the disease.

In response, the Victorian government has begun a four-week enforcement blitz to ensure workers comply with Covid-19 health requirements, such as mandatory mask wearing, and urging them to get vaccinated.

Speaking on Monday, Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said, “it doesn’t take much for this highly infectious Delta variant to get from a highly mobile, younger, under-vaccinated workforce into outer suburbs, into the families and communities of those suburbs”.

“We’ll do everything we can to ensure the construction industry can continue in a Covid-safe way,” Foley said.

“But the entire industry, employers, unions, are on notice.”

Workers caught breaking Covid-19 regulations face on-the-spot fines of up to A$1,817 ($1,339), while building businesses will be out of pocket for up to A$10,904.

The state government also wants to encourage construction workers to get vaccinated by allowing them to get their jabs, without bookings, at four large vaccination centres.

That offer will continue until September 26.

Aside from generally being more mobile than most workers, builders and tradesmen tend to be young.

Foley said the outbreak was a “pandemic of the young and the unvaccinated” with 87 per cent of Victoria’s active cases being aged under 50, with 585 aged under 19.

Nationally, the Delta strain has disproportionately affected younger people, with the Australian government reporting the highest number of cases has been among those aged from 20 to 29.