SYDNEY: Hospitals in the Australian state of Victoria will run at an unprecedented capacity level to clear the elective surgery backlog due to COVID-19 restrictions. The state government announced a “COVID Catch-up Plan” on Sunday, promising to raise Victorian hospitals’ capacity by 25 percent in 2023 compared to pre-pandemic levels, allowing an additional 40,000 surgeries to take place over the year. Under the plan, the government will invest 1.5 billion Australian dollars (1.13 billion U.S. dollars) to boost surgical activity across the state to record levels, providing care that was deferred due to the pandemic over the last two years. The investment will support more activities in the public health system, including more same-day surgeries, increased twilight, and after-hours work, and theatre improvements to increase efficiency and fast-track patients through the system. A local premium private hospital will also be transferred into a public surgery center with the capacity to support up to 9,000 public patients per year once fully operational in 2023. “We’ve seen COVID disrupt care and cancel surgeries for people right across the country … We’re making sure more Victorians get the care they need with a game-changing investment,” Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley said. On Monday, Victoria recorded 10,011 new COVID-19 cases, up from 9,008 on Sunday. There are 305 patients with COVID-19 in the hospital, with 17 held in the intensive care unit. Foley told local media that the waiting lists would get worse before they got better. “We know as a result of deferred care, as a result of the pandemic, that those COVID numbers are going to increase,” he said.