| 12 April 2024, Friday |

Australian PM says no Xmas lockdown as hospitals coping with rising Omicron

On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled out a Christmas shutdown, saying hospitals were dealing with a record rise in COVID-19 infections caused by the omicron strain.

Australia is dealing with the more transmissible omicron version of the coronavirus as restrictions loosen ahead of the Christmas vacation season due to increasing vaccination levels.

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“Despite these escalating incidences, hospitals and health systems remain in a solid position,” Morrison told reporters following an emergency Cabinet meeting in Canberra.

Even though daily infections continue to rise, hospitalization and fatality rates remain low as compared to those reported during a wave of cases from the delta wave, and Morrison stated that no additional lockdowns will be implemented.

“Australians have worked really hard to spend this Christmas together, and we want to safeguard that.” One of the things we decided on today is that we will not return to lockdowns. “We do not want to return to lockdowns,” Morrison stated.

Morrison stressed that preventing the virus’s spread is a human responsibility. No nationwide required law requiring the use of masks indoors will be implemented, he added, though it would be “highly advised.”

Residents in most states, with the exception of the most populous, New South Wales, have been compelled by their state governments to wear masks inside public facilities.

On Wednesday, Australia’s federal and state leaders convened an emergency national Cabinet meeting to examine growing cases that are straining testing facilities.

Morrison promised extra immunization money for clinics and pharmacies following the meeting. He also asked the country’s governments to reopen hundreds of vaccination sites in order to speed up the booster rollout, which were closed after double-dose rates in adults reached 80%.

Morrison stated that vaccination centres were hastening the distribution of boosters, but that any decision to cut the wait period for the doses would be made by immunization specialists.

“That is not a choice for me as prime minister, nor for the premiers and chief ministers,” Morrison added.

For the first time during the epidemic, Australia recorded more than 5,000 daily infections on Wednesday, exceeding the previous day’s high of nearly 4,600. The states of New South Wales and Victoria accounted for around 95% of new cases.

Since the epidemic began, Australia has had 265,000 illnesses and 2,162 fatalities, significantly fewer than many other nations.

  • Reuters