Australia nears Omicron peak as daily infections hover around record highs

SYDNEY (January 15): Australia has likely neared the peak of its Omicron wave, authorities said on Saturday, but warned that daily infections will persist at record highs for “the next few weeks” after more than 100,000 cases were reported for a fourth consecutive day.

After limiting the spread of the coronavirus with strict restrictions at the start of the pandemic, Australia is now suffering from a record number of cases of the Omicron variant. Most parts of the country shifted to a strategy of living with the virus as they achieved higher vaccination rates.

More than 1.2 million infections have been recorded this year, compared to 200,000 for 2020 and 2021 combined.

“We are not there yet and I think there will still be a large number of diagnosed cases in Australia over the next few weeks,” Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said at a press briefing, referring to the Omicron outbreak.

But modeling from some states “leads me to believe we’re near the peak of this wave in terms of cases,” he said.

Infections have fallen over the past three days while the rise in hospitalizations in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, has slowed slightly, official data shows.

Most states are grappling with record hospitalizations during the Omicron wave, with authorities saying unvaccinated young people form a “significant number” of admissions in Australia.

“We’re seeing an epidemic of unvaccinated young people, we’re seeing that in intensive care admissions,” Kelly said.

Australia is one of the countries most vaccinated against Covid-19, with more than 92% of people over 16 on double doses, and with an accelerating recall campaign.

A medical exemption for tennis star Novak Djokovic from vaccination has sparked uproar in the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s federal government, criticized for its handling of the Omicron wave in an election year, canceled Djokovic’s visa for the second time on Friday due to Covid-19 entry rules. Djokovic is asking for a court ruling to stop his deportation.

Carol N. Valencia