Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it’s time to stop thinking about case numbers and focus instead on the serious illness.
The Australian Government says the lighter effect of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus meant the country could continue with plans to reopen the economy, even as new infections reached a record high of 37,000 and the number of people admitted to hospital increased.
Record daily fall numbers were reported Monday in the states of Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, as well as the Australian capital area.
In New South Wales, there were 20,794 cases, higher than Sunday’s figure, but below the daily record of 22,577 set on Saturday, with test numbers lower over the New Year holiday weekend.
The national daily total reached a record of more than 37,150 cases, exceeding Saturday’s 35,327 cases, with Western Australia and the Northern Territory yet to be reported.
Eight deaths due to COVID-19 were reported on Monday, taking the national toll through the pandemic to more than 2,260.
“We need to stop thinking about case numbers and thinking about serious illnesses, living with the virus, managing our own health and making sure we monitor those symptoms and keep our economy going,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Channel Seven said.
Hospitalizations rose to 1,204 in New South Wales, more than 10 per cent from 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 lighter than other variants, reducing the risk to both individuals and the health system.
Michael Bonning, chairman of the Australian Medical Association’s Council of New South Wales, said the significant increase in hospitalizations coupled with the peak holiday period and the number of health workers exposed to COVID put pressure on capacity.
“With both the Christmas season and with hospital workers being laid off due to their close contact status … we find it becoming quite difficult to staff, especially critical areas of hospitals,” he told ABC Television.
At the end of December, the government changed its advice on when people should get a free RT-PCR test for COIVD-19, and called for greater use of rapid antigen tests, in part to alleviate pressure on testing ability.
But the rapid antigen tests are in short supply, and Morrison said the government would not cover the cost for people to test themselves, which he set at 15 Australian dollars ($ 10.90).
“We are now in another stage of this pandemic, where we just can not go around and make everything for free,” he said.