COVID-19 is still not quite done Down Under, with the country's medical facilities taking a heavy blow from the virus that just won't go away.
On Wednesday, the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals reached an all-time high as health officials urged companies to allow workers to telecommute and advised the public to wear face masks indoors and obtain booster shots immediately in the face of a big outbreak.
In light of the Omicron wave and an uptick in influenza infections, Australia's health minister Mark Butler issued an alert on Tuesday about the emergence of COVID-19 in the country. "Currently, more than 5,200 Australians are hospitalized with COVID," Butler stated.
In the previous week, Australia has registered more than 300,000 instances of the virus, despite the fact that the actual number might be double that. Tuesday's number of 50,000 cases was the highest in the past two months.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly stated, "We are seeing hundreds of thousands of Australians sick every single week... we are at the beginning of this surge, not the end."
The surge in numbers has prompted him to request that businesses let work from home "if possible" and explore mask use during the winter Omicron wave.
Official data revealed that approximately 5,300 Australians are hospitalized with COVID-19, which is close to the record 5,390 reported in January during the BA.1 outbreak. Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia have already reached their highest levels since the outbreak began.
Kelly stated that the new Omicron variety, BA.5, poses a "serious concern" and is responsible for the increase in infections. He stated that it is far more contagious than previous variations.
Kelly continued, "It's also very good at evading immunity, whether that's from a previous infection or not, so you can get reinfected with this variation."
Australia reinstated support payments for casual workers quarantined due to COVID-19 last week, after an increase in workers phoning in sick. Several frontline health professionals are also ill or in seclusion, putting further burden on the health system.
Butler asked eligible Australians to present themselves for booster vaccinations. He stated that 550,000 Australians received their fourth dose over the past week. Authorities have also cautioned that a delay in the administration of booster shots could exacerbate the health situation.
To date, 95 percent of those older than 16 have received two doses, which has helped maintain Australia's total COVID-19 cases at below 9 million and deaths at 10,845.