Victoria recorded 25 Covid-related deaths and 1,923 cases overnight in the deadliest day of the pandemic so far.
The startling figure comes as residents enjoy new-found freedoms as the state prepares to hit the 80 per cent vaccination target ahead of schedule on Friday.
Meanwhile, NSW reported 293 cases on Thursday and two deaths.
Victoria’s deaths take the toll from its latest Delta outbreak to 272.
Thursday’s 27 Covid-related fatalities nationally is higher than Australia’s previous worst day on August 17, 2020 – when Victoria recorded 25 coronavirus deaths during its second wave of infections.
Victoria has recorded 25 Covid-related deaths and 1,923 cases overnight in the deadliest day of the pandemic so far
Victoria confirmed 59 and 41 deaths respectively on August 31 and September 4 last year, but on those days officials included unreported fatalities from earlier in the outbreak.
About 77 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over are now fully vaccinated.
There were 82,648 tests processed and 22,189 Covid-19 vaccine doses administered at state-run hubs on Wednesday.
There are 746 people in hospital, with the seven-day average at 780. Of those, 137 are in intensive care with 85 on a ventilator.
In NSW, 381 Covid-positive patients are being treated in hospital, of which 82 are in intensive care.
The figures come as authorities warn there’s a high risk of a thunderstorm asthma event in Victoria’s southwest, Wimmera and Mallee districts, while Melbourne may be moderately affected.
The combination of high grass pollen levels, severe thunderstorms and strong winds on Thursday means a ‘large number of people’ may develop asthma symptoms quickly, the health department said.
‘Our hospitals are experiencing significant demand due to Covid-19, so it’s important you stay well,’ an alert said.
A health worker handles a Covid-19 swab at a drive-through testing clinic. Thursday’s 27 Covid-related fatalities nationally is higher than Australia’s previous worst day on August 17, 2020
Those at risk are being advised to avoid being outdoors during storms and the winds that precede them, and remember to take preventative medication.
A thunderstorm asthma event in 2016 killed nine people and saw thousands more hospitalised.
Meanwhile, half a million people are being urged to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as statewide restrictions are set to ease once again.
From 6pm Friday, people in metropolitan Melbourne will be allowed to travel to the regions and interstate, masks will not be required outdoors, and non-essential retail stores will be able to open.
Pictured: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. About 77 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over are now fully vaccinated
But about 500,000 Victorians have yet to receive their first vaccine dose, with only 83 per cent of people aged in their 20s getting a first jab.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has also granted provisional approval for the Pfizer booster, which would be given six months after the initial course of the vaccine.
The decision on whether to roll out the booster shots across the country is dependent on ATAGI advice.
The top-up Pfizer shot could be made available to all Australians over 18 in a matter of weeks, regardless of what vaccine they were given previously.
Victorian health authorities have issued the first thunderstorm asthma alert for the season, with authorities warning hospitals are already dealing with Covid-19 patients
Severely immunocompromised Australians have already been eligible for a third dose.
Professor Cheng said while various jurisdictions have required Covid-19 vaccines in some settings, mandates for boosters would be a matter for states and territories to administer.
‘Boosters are the icing on the cake and the most important thing is to get two doses into people to make sure they’re protected,’ he said.