Australians admitted to hospitals due to COVID-19 hit an all-time high on Wednesday as authorities urged companies to allow staff to work from home and advised people to wear masks indoors and get urgent booster shots during a major outbreak.
Australia is witnessing a third Omicron wave powered by the highly transmissible new sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, with more than 300,000 cases recorded in the past seven days, even as authorities had indicated the true number would can double. Tuesday’s 50,000 cases were the highest in two months.
“We have to do some things differently at least for a short period of time,” Paul Kelly, Australia’s chief medical officer, told ABC Radio on Wednesday, as he predicted the number of people ending up in hospitals will soon reach an all-time high.
“We know that working from home is a very important part of stopping what we call macro-spreading.”
About 5,300 Australians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, not far from the record 5,390 recorded in January during the BA.1 outbreak, official data showed. The numbers in the states of Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are already at their highest since the start of the pandemic.
But Kelly said he had not recommended reintroducing mask mandates or other restrictions.
Last week, Australia reinstated aid payments for temporary workers quarantined due to COVID-19 after more workers began calling in sick. Several frontline health workers are also sick or isolated, putting even more strain on the health system.
Authorities have also warned of a delay in taking their booster shots, exacerbating the health crisis.
So far, 95 percent of people over 16 have had two doses, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in Australia to just under 9 million and the death toll at 10,845, much lower than many other countries. But only about 71 percent have received three or more doses.
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