Australia pushes for reopening amid record COVID-19 cases

SYDNEY – The Australian government says the milder impact of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 means the country can push ahead with plans to reopen the economy even as new infections hit a record more than 37,000. and the number of people hospitalized increased.

Record daily numbers of cases were reported on Monday in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, as well as the Australian Capital Territory.

In New South Wales, there are 20,794 cases, higher than Sunday’s number but below the daily record of 22,577 cases set on Saturday, with testing numbers lower over the New Year’s holiday weekend.

The nationwide daily total hit a record more than 37,150 cases, exceeding 35,327 cases on Saturday, with Western Australia and the Northern Territory still reported.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Channel Seven: “We have to stop thinking about case numbers and think about serious illness, living with the virus, managing our own health and making sure we’re on track. Watch those symptoms and we keep our economy going.”

Hospitalizations rose to 1,204 in New South Wales, up more than 10% on Sunday and more than three times the level on Christmas Day.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the advice to the government is that the Omicron strain is more transmissible but also milder than other variants, which reduces the risk to both individuals and health systems.

Michael Bonning, Chairman of the New South Wales Council of the Australian Medical Association, said the dramatic increase in hospital admissions combined with the peak holiday period and the number of healthcare workers exposed to COVID is causing pressure on capacity.

He told ABC Television: “With both the Christmas period and the hospital staff being impacted by their close contact….we’ve found that staffing is becoming quite difficult. , especially in critical areas of the hospital.

In late December, the government changed its advice on when people should get a free PCR test for COIVD-19 and called for greater use of rapid antigen tests, in part to ease pressure on the public. testing capacity.

However, rapid antigen tests are in short supply and Morrison said the government will not cover the cost for people to test themselves, which he offered at AU$15 (US$10.90).

“We’re in another phase of this pandemic where we can’t just go around and make everything free,” he said.

Eight deaths from COVID-19 were reported on Monday, bringing the total number of deaths in the pandemic to more than 2,260.

Report by John Mair. Edited by Gerry Doyle


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