Intensive care nurses have made an impassioned plea for Victorians to get vaccinated, with the number of COVID-19 hospital patients set to soar this month.
Victoria reported 1220 new locally acquired cases and three deaths on Sunday as hospitalisations continue to rise sharply.
There are 476 Victorians in hospital battling the virus, up 48 from Saturday, with 98 people in ICU and 57 requiring a ventilator.
Royal Melbourne Hospital ICU nurse unit manager Michelle Spence said it had 135 patients under its care, 19 of whom are in intensive care.
She said patients were “begging” for the vaccine before being placed on life support, including a man in his 30s with no underlying conditions.
“They are very young and once we get to that point where we are about to put them on life support, it really is too late,” she told reporters.
Ms Spence choked up as she described the lonely deaths of people in ICU over the last 18 months, and implored Victorians not to delay getting the jab.
“I know you’re frustrated. I know you’re scared. I know you’re over it. We’re all over it. But it’s time to absolutely make a difference,” she said.
Jacqui Harper, nurse unit manager at the Northern Hospital, said staff were holding up iPads so dying patients could farewell their family.
“The clinical deterioration is so sad. One minute sitting in a chair, an hour later, they could be saying their goodbyes,” she said.
More ICU beds will open at the Royal Melbourne on Monday to cater for patients waiting at home and in the emergency department.
Ms Spence said flying in interstate nurses to monitor the extra beds was on the cards, with Burnett Institute modelling predicting between 1200 to 2500 Victorians will require hospitalisation after daily cases peak in mid- to late-October.
“Nothing is off the table,” she said.
Premier Daniel Andrews reminded Victorians the Pfizer dose interval at state-run clinics will halve from six to three weeks in state-run hubs from Monday.
He urged those with second-dose appointments to go online and re-book to help the state bring forward hitting its 70 per cent vaccination target, forecast for October 26, triggering the end of lockdown.
Melbourne is preparing to claim the unwanted title of the world’s most locked-down city after spending 245 days under stay-at-home orders. It will surpass the record – set by Buenos Aires, Argentina – on Monday.
Mr Andrews said he was proud of the sacrifices Melburnians had made over the pandemic and called for them to make one final push over the next few weeks.
“We are going to get past this. We are going to end this lockdown and open up, and all that we will enjoy then will be a result of all that we have given,” he said.
But Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has called for the state government to release a concrete reopening date, rather than one tied to vaccination rates.
“It is time for them to give us the date so we can come out of this mess,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, three Victorian students have tested positive after 3000 were tested on Saturday as part of targeted LGA testing for Tuesday’s repeatedly rescheduled General Achievement Test.
All students who test positive will be granted an exemption.