The number of patients in hospitals in the Australian state of Victoria with COVID-19 has risen to its highest level since the pandemic began. The total number of coronavirus infections across Australia has now passed one million. Lockdowns and border closures are credited with helping Australia limit the spread of COVID-19. But as the country attempts to ease rules following high rates of vaccinations, infections have reached record levels. New South Wales, the most populous state, has reported more than half a million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began after a recent surge in infections. In neighboring Victoria, infections are also increasing sharply. It has diagnosed 38,000 new cases in the past day. Health officials said Tuesday there are 861 coronavirus patients in hospital — a figure not seen since the pandemic began — and 117 patients are in intensive care. Most of the reported cases are omicron variant infections which have placed the health system under immense strain. Ambulance authorities in Victoria Tuesday issued its second Code Red warning in the space of a week, highlighting extreme demand for paramedic services. Under new orders coming into force this Thursday, staff in key sectors in Victoria, including health and aged care, must receive a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before they are allowed to work. But Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said that lockdowns and other tougher restrictions are not being considered. “I do not know what variant is coming in a month, or in six months,” he said. “But we are going to do everything we possibly can to have as few rules as possible. That is what living with this, or normalizing this, or pushing beyond it is all about. We are having to live a bit differently, but we have got very few rules compared to, you know. Go and have a look at Europe at the moment. You know, it is, yes, very, very difficult.” Across Australia, more than 3,500 people with COVID-19 are in the hospital, up from about 2,000 people a week ago, according to official health data. It also shows that 2,389 people have died since the start of the pandemic. Ninety-two percent of Australians aged over 16 have received two vaccine doses. Children aged 5-11-years are now eligible for a coronavirus vaccination in Australia.