SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 23 January 2022, Sunday |

Australia COVID-19 cases surge, hospitalizations hit record high in populous state

Australia’s COVID-compliant On Tuesday, 19 cases reached a new pandemic high amid an omicron spike in the country’s two most populous states, as hospitalizations in New South Wales, home to Sydney, topped the previous peak set during the delta outbreak.

The number of people hospitalized to hospitals in New South Wales increased to 1,344, a new pandemic high, surpassing the 1,266 achieved during the Delta wave in September. The number of people has more than doubled in a week, putting a strain on the health-care system.

So far on Tuesday, Australia has recorded a record 47,799 infections, surpassing the previous day’s high of 37,212. Four new deaths have been reported.

Despite the unprecedented surge in infections caused by the omicron strain, dual-dose vaccination rates of around 92 percent in adults over the age of 16 have assisted Australia in keeping the mortality rate lower than in prior viral outbreaks.

Authorities have not identified the coronavirus variation that caused the deaths, but New South Wales officials have stated that the delta version has infected 74% of patients in the state’s intensive care units since December 16.

Australia is also dealing with a scarcity of quick antigen tests, PCR results delays, and the abrupt closure of a number of testing facilities, leaving pathology laboratories inundated by a backlog of tests. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ruled out the government funding the cost of COVID-19 testing.

“The difficulty right now is that the lack of (quick antigen testing) is utterly hindering personal responsibility, and it is a frustration that is a glaring hole in the present management of COVID,” Chris Moy, vice president of the Australian Medical Association, said on ABC Radio on Tuesday.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it will form a team to investigate concerns regarding price gouging for at-home quick antigen testing.

The unprecedented increase in infections and hospitalizations occurred as 2 million more Australians were eligible for COVID-19 booster doses on Tuesday, after officials reduced the wait period between the second and third vaccinations to four months.

Over 2.5 million Australians have now had their booster injection, which health authorities hope will prevent more hospitalizations and deaths.

Australia passed half a million coronavirus cases since the epidemic began on Tuesday, with over half of them recorded in the previous two weeks. Nonetheless, the country’s 547,160 cases and 2,270 deaths are fewer than in many comparable countries.