Vic cash splash to help kids re-engage

The Victorian government is launching a program to get children throughout the state out and about.
The Victorian government is launching a program to get children throughout the state out and about.

The Victorian government will spend $113 million to help children re-engage in the extracurricular activities they loved before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Positive Start program will focus on students from government and low-fee non-government schools who have been most affected by COVID-19 closures - as well as those who might otherwise be unable to take part in an outdoor education or camp program.

"This is making sure our kids catch up on not just the academic things they have missed out on but the socialisation, the resilience, the great outdoors, all of those other experiences," Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Sunday.

An investment of $84.3 million will deliver additional camps to benefit 81,200 students during school holidays and 2022 school terms, while $16.3 million will help deliver over 690,000 swimming and water safety lessons.

A further $12.4 million will provide access to a range of arts, sporting and cultural experiences at every government and low-fee non-government school in Victoria.

Also on Sunday the state opposition announced a $2.5 billion post-pandemic plan for manufacturing if it wins government at the next election.

The Rebuilding Jobs, Bringing Manufacturing Home program would focus on medicine, clean energy, minerals processing, defence and computing, with a taskforce to allocate $1 billion to projects in regional Victoria.

The state added 980 new infections to its COVID-19 caseload on Sunday and recorded a further seven virus-related deaths.

Victoria is managing 15,433 active coronavirus cases. Some 299 virus patients are being cared for in the state's hospitals, with 40 of them in ICUs and 16 requiring ventilation.

Health officials said COVID testers managed to process more than 65,000 results in the 24 hours to Saturday evening.

Victoria is now 91 per cent fully vaccinated for everyone aged 12 and over.

Meanwhile extra police have been deployed in Ballarat as hundreds of "freedom" protesters gather at the town's Civic Hall carrying Australian and Eureka flags.

If follows a demonstration in Melbourne on Saturday against vaccination mandates and pandemic laws, with concerns some protesters have neo-Nazi or far-right conspiracy group links.

The state government's controversial new legislation, which passed parliament on Thursday, makes the premier and health minister responsible for declaring pandemics and making health orders.

It will replace the existing state of emergency on December 16 and makes Victoria the first state in Australia with pandemic-specific laws.

Australian Associated Press