Covid 19 Australia: NSW and Victoria report record hospitalizations as Omicron peak approaches

The extreme staff shortage due to infection and self-isolation is echoing everywhere from supermarket shelves to tourist gangs. Video / Sky News Australia

New South Wales recorded 25,870 new cases of Covid-19 from PCR tests on Tuesday, along with eleven other deaths.

There are now 2,186 people hospitalized with the virus in NSW – this level of hospitalization is almost double that of the peak of the Delta wave last year. There are 170 patients in intensive care, up from 159 on Monday.

There were 71,325 PCR tests processed in the last reporting period, down from the daily volume of the past few weeks as people transitioned to the rapid antigen test (RAT).

The state is expected to start counting positive RATs from Wednesday, with people being asked to report their results through Service NSW. The government intends to make RAT reporting mandatory.

Meanwhile, coronavirus patients in pressurized NSW public hospitals are moved to private facilities to free up beds, as infections rise and medical staff grapple with critical shortages.

NSW Health deputy secretary Susan Pearce said on Monday the department had reverted to the patient management strategies it used during the Delta epidemic in Sydney in 2021 to try to reduce pressure on hospitals.

She said the need to move patients should not be seen as a “failure” of the public hospital system and that it was a “preventive and proactive” measure to help it manage.

Pearce said she was not ready to give a breakdown of every hospital, but the number of patients who had been moved was still “in the tens and not in the hundreds at this point.”

“The reduction in elective surgeries means that the capacity of our hospitals and private hospitals is there, so it is a sensible approach to move people around rather than waiting for the hospital to exceed its capacity,” she said. .

NSW has suspended elective surgeries – just like Victoria and Queensland – in a bid to free up health resources as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

A healthcare worker examines a member of the public at a drive-thru Covid-19 test site in Sydney, Australia.  Photo / AP
A healthcare worker examines a member of the public at a drive-thru Covid-19 test site in Sydney, Australia. Photo / AP

NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole, who is isolating himself at home after contracting Covid, said the private hospital sector could ease the pressure on the public system.

“We have indeed invested heavily in the health system, we have the resources there to be able to cope with the number of cases that arise,” he said.

“They make sure that some of these patients are transferred from the public system to the private system, in order to be able to alleviate some of the pressure on the public system but also to support this staff.”

New infections in New South Wales are expected to peak in the third or fourth week of January before starting to decline next month, according to government modeling.

Modification of isolation requirements

A major shift in the way Australia handles close Covid contact has been called dangerous by the head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

On Monday, the seven-day isolation period for close contact was lifted for workers in critical roles in the supply chain.

The change came less than two weeks after the national cabinet agreed to relax the definition of close contact. Only people who have spent more than four hours in a home and family contacts of a positive case would be required to self-quarantine.

Cars line up at a drive-thru Covid-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, NSW.  Photo / AP
Cars line up at a drive-thru Covid-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, NSW. Photo / AP

Speaking to ABC News, CUTA Secretary Sally McManus said the change put the health and well-being of workers at risk.

“Close contact with a household now lasts four hours, but workers can spend eight hours with someone who is Covid-positive and they are no longer considered close contact, which is really crazy,” McManus said.

Overnight, McManus wrote to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling for an urgent meeting as exhausted essential workers grapple with personnel and supply chain shortages.

In its letter, CUTA made a list of demands – including reinstating pandemic leave for close contact in the workplace, providing free rapid antigen testing, and upgrading a mandate to mask to N95 or P2 masks.

“The acceleration of the Omicron epidemic is a national crisis. It calls for national leadership. We need the support of our government to be able to keep the country running and at the same time ensure the safety of workers and the community. “, indicates the letter.

Victoria

Victoria has reached its highest level of hospitalization since the start of the pandemic, with the state ambulance service under great pressure.

There are now 861 infected people in Victorian hospitals, including 117 in intensive care and 27 on ventilators.

The previous peak in hospitalizations for Covid in Victoria was 851 in October when the state battled an increase in Delta infections.

Victoria has registered 37,994 new cases and 13 deaths from Covid in the past 24 hours.

A sign indicates the temporary closure of the Bourke Street Covid-19 test site as people line up outside in Melbourne, Australia.  Photo / Getty Images
A sign indicates the temporary closure of the Bourke Street Covid-19 test site as people line up outside in Melbourne, Australia. Photo / Getty Images

More than 93% of eligible Victorians are fully vaccinated and the state has 171,369 active cases.

A total of 59,670 PCR tests were performed on Monday and 16,433 vaccines were administered in state centers.

It comes as Melbourne ambulances were forced to declare a code red for the second time in a week as services desperately spread across the city.

“Ambulance Victoria is experiencing extremely high demand for ambulances in the metropolitan area,” a statement said overnight.

“There will likely be a delay for an ambulance to reach you. Our priority is to provide care to Victorians in need of life-saving assistance.”

A week earlier, the ailing service implemented yet another Code Red as Victoria’s daily cases surpassed 10,000.

More than 500 Victoria Ambulance staff were put on leave at the time with SES and Lifesaving Victoria used to help meet demand.

Carol N. Valencia