NSW and Victoria have recorded a further significant drop in Covid-19 cases but ICU figures have risen marginally in another indication the Omicron spread may have past its peak.
NSW reported 29,504 new cases and 17 deaths on Monday – down 15 per cent from the 34,660 infections and 20 deaths recorded on Sunday.
Victoria recorded 22,429 new cases and six deaths – down 20 per cent from the previous 28,128 infections and 13 deaths.
Hospitalisation numbers have edged higher in both states with NSW hospitals treating 2,776 patients – up from 2,650 – and Victoria hospitals treating 1,229 patients – up from 1,114.
ICU figures have followed trend with 203 patients now in NSW units – up from 191 – and 129 in Victoria units – up from 122.
In NSW, the percentage of active cases requiring hospital treatment was 0.8 per cent, and just 0.06 per cent in ICU. In Victoria, those figures were even lower with 0.5 per cent of active cases in hospital and 0.05 per cent in intensive care.
The rising number of hospitalisations prompted NSW health minister Brad Hazzard to take aim at anti-vaxxers for placing unnecessary strain on the healthcare system after it was revealed last week that half of Covid patients in ICU were unvaccinated.
The new cases come as health minister Greg Hunt says there are clear signs that the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is peaking
While Mr Hunt provided some hope for the future, two-thirds of parents still believe it is unsafe for children to return to classrooms in a few weeks time when the country is in the middle of the Omicron outbreak
‘If you are not fully vaccinated, you are six times more likely to end up in hospital and 13 times more likely to end up in ICU,’ Mr Hazzard said.
‘That means you are requiring the assistance of the health staff who are already exhausted. Can I just say to those people who have chosen not to get vaccinated – it’s time to give a damn about someone other than yourself.
‘Give a damn about your community, your family and most particularly, the health staff.’
The new cases come as health minister Greg Hunt says there are clear signs the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is peaking.
‘There are signs that NSW in particular and the ACT maybe peaking,’ Mr Hunt said Sunday.
‘I won’t call it as having reached it yet, but in particular what we’ve seen, is that all of these jurisdictions have so far significantly undershot the hospitalisation, ICU and ventilation predictions that were made at the outset.’
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, premier Dominic Perrottet added: ‘The best way through this pandemic is to push through.’
‘What we can’t have, and I understand that it is a different approach to the last two years, but what we can’t have here in New South Wales and across the country are never ending lockdowns.
‘Because that will result in a pandemic that becomes a never ending story.’
Lung specialist Dr Lucy Morgan pleaded with residents to get vaccinated to reduce the chances of falling seriously ill and requiring medical care by nurses and doctors.
‘We are exhausted,’ she said. ‘And in responding to the unprecedented demands, the thousands of patients presenting to our hospitals every day, our capacity to manage everything else has also really changed.
‘In the short-term, that’s OK. But in the long-term, and it’s two years now, this is bad. It’s really hard on us and it’s really hard on the people of New South Wales because this is leading to some delayed diagnoses.’
Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy warned the national cabinet last week that 10 per cent of the workforce could be absent because of Covid at any one time, which would increase by a further five per cent if schools stay closed
Two-thirds of parents still believe it is unsafe for children to return to classrooms in a few weeks time when the country is in the middle of the Omicron outbreak.
Just one-in-five parents were happy to let their children go back to school, according to a national survey by parent advocacy group, The Parenthood, in a poll of 3043 families.
More than half of respondents (56 per cent) said school should be delayed to allow precautions to be taken around the provision of masks, rapid antigen tests and ventilation.
A similar proportion (52 per cent) said the peak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 should be allowed to pass, while 51 per cent said schools should stay closed to ensure more children can be vaccinated.
‘In the weeks since the 2021 school year ended the COVID picture around the country has changed dramatically,’ The Parenthood’s executive director Georgie Dent said .
Two-thirds of parents still believe it is unsafe for children to return to classrooms in a few weeks time when the country is in the middle of the Omicron outbreak
‘Having spent almost two years heeding the strict message that keeping kids home was the best way to keep them and others safe from this virus, it is not surprising that against a backdrop of surging cases parents aren’t feeling confident or certain that returning as planned makes sense.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged states and territories to open schools as planned, although Queensland has delayed its opening by two weeks.
Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy warned the national cabinet last week that 10 per cent of the workforce could be absent because of Covid at any one time, which would increase by a further five per cent if schools stay closed.
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt also announced $24 million in additional funding to assist the temporary widening of telehealth consultations through GPs and other specialists due to the high infection rate from the Omicron outbreak.
The decision was widely applauded by GPs and other help groups.
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt also announced $24 million in additional funding to assist the temporary widening of telehealth consultations through GPs and other specialists due to the high infection rate from the Omicron outbreak
The funding will also cover the continued supply of personal protective equipment, such as masks, respirators, face shields and gowns for face-to-face consultations, including patients that have tested positive through a rapid antigen test.
The latter aligns with national cabinet’s January 5 decision that RAT tests no longer need to be confirmed by a PCR test.
Mr Hunt said telehealth had been a vital support during the pandemic, providing greater flexibility in healthcare delivery at the most critical time and continues to be a fundamental part of the pandemic response.