By Ben Westcott, CNN
A total of 43 police staff in the Australian state of Victoria have been stood down from duty and could face being fired after they failed to comply with a Covid-19 vaccine mandate, Victoria Police said.
Under Victorian state law, all emergency service workers including police officers were set an October 15 deadline to book a vaccination, and must receive their first dose by Friday.
In a statement sent to CNN on Tuesday, Victoria Police said 34 police officers and nine public safety officers who had “not complied with the vaccination direction” had been stood down from active service while they are investigated by the state’s Professional Standards Command.
Subsequent disciplinary action may include termination, but if a worker was unable to be vaccinated “due to a medical issue” they would be exempt, the statement said.
Among other jobs that require vaccination under Victoria’s mandate are airport workers, marriage celebrants and funeral attendants. Public bodies in other Australian states have also introduced similar orders, including New South Wales Police.
Victoria is set to emerge from an almost three-month long lockdown this week, after Premier Daniel Andrews said the state’s target of fully vaccinating 70% of its population over age 16 had been met early.
From Friday, a nightly curfew will be lifted and freedom of movement restored in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city. Meanwhile, up to 10 people will be allowed to visit homes, and shops and restaurants can reopen with limited capacity.
Victoria will be the third Australian state or territory to begin attempting to live with Covid-19 as Australia moves away from the strict elimination strategy it adopted during the first 18 months of the pandemic. Outbreaks of the highly-contagious Delta variant had made the zero-Covid goal unattainable, according to experts.
On Tuesday, Victoria recorded 1,749 new Covid-19 cases and 11 deaths.
New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, was the first to begin living with the virus on October 11, followed by the Australian Capital Territory on October 15. Australia’s total vaccination rate for people over 16 is 69.2% as of Monday.
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