Coronavirus crisis: Australia’s daily virus caseload exceeds 116,000 – PerthNow

Australia’s daily COVID cases have exceeded a shocking milestone, with WA adding another case to its tally.
Premier Mark McGowan released the update via Facebook and Twitter just after midday on Saturday.
The case is linked to a contact with a recent interstate arrival case.
Seven cases have also been reported related to interstate and overseas arrivals.
All cases are in home isolation or quarantine.
The new case brings the State’s active case tally to eight and total WA cases to date to 1229.
There are no cases in hospital.
The update comes after indoor mask-wearing requirements were eased from 6pm on Friday night.
However, the changes in restrictions come amid confirmation on Friday a second quarantine hotel guard had been infected with the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.
No further spread was recorded in either the Delta backpacker cluster – which remains at 21 cases – or from a Pan Pacific security guard also diagnosed with Omicron earlier this week.
Mr Cook warned West Australians they should expect to “continue to see some cases pop up over the coming days” linked to the backpacker cluster among contacts already in quarantine.
The State remains on track to reopen its borders on February 5, five days after children return to school to start Term 1.
The positive update for WA comes amid news Victoria has surpassed an embattled New South Wales’ figures with 51,356 cases overnight, while its neighbouring State recorded 45,098.
Meanwhile, Tasmanian cases have spiked to more than 2000.
Twenty-five people have reportedly died across the Eastern States taking the national COVID death toll to 2346.
Read the latest State-by-State developments:
Victoria posts 51,356 cases, nine deaths
Victoria has reported 51,356 new COVID-19 cases and nine deaths, as reporting for mass rapid antigen testing comes into play.
Saturday’s case numbers are more than double Friday’s figure, and health authorities say almost half (26,428) the positive cases in the past 24 hours were revealed using rapid antigen tests (RATs).
But only 5923 of Saturday’s positive RAT results were from the latest 24 hour reporting period.
The health department said most of the positive RAT results were from people who took the test earlier in the week, and only reported the result on Friday when the hotline and online reporting system went live.
The new system was set up after the PCR testing regime came under extreme pressure, with suspected cases queuing for hours to get tested and results taking several days to come through.
Last week four of the State’s main pathology providers suspended operations until at least Sunday due to a backlog of thousands of tests.
Despite this, Saturday’s figures include a further 24,928 cases identified through PCR lab tests, of which more than 89,000 were conducted.
It is expected the RAT reporting system will be able to handle more than 50,000 positive results a day – but the mostly self-administered tests have proved difficult to find in pharmacies and supermarkets.
Some state-run testing clinics are handing out RATs for asymptomatic people to use at home, and the Victorian government has ordered 44 million tests.
Anyone who tests positive using a RAT will be classified as a “probable” case and must isolate for seven days and notify their contacts. They will receive the same clinical and financial support as PCR confirmed cases.
The State is managing more than 83,000 active cases. There are 644 patients in hospital, the same number as the previous day.
Some 106 people are in ICUs compared to 58 on Friday and 24 on ventilation, with that figure also unchanged from the previous day.
Of Victorians aged over 18, 15 per cent have had three vaccine doses, and 93 per cent have had two.
Bookings are also open for children five to 11 to be vaccinated, with 25,000 appointments taken up in the 24 hours after bookings opened and the program to begin Monday.
Restrictions have also been reintroduced, including density limits of one person per 2sqm for indoor hospitality and entertainment venues.
NSW posts record 45,098 cases, nine deaths
NSW has reported another 45,098 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths, while acknowledging case numbers are likely an underestimate.
The record total comes weeks from the peak of the current Omicron outbreak, expected in mid-to-late January, according to recent NSW Health modelling.
The figures, announced on Saturday morning for the 24 hours to 8pm Friday, came from 116,915 tests, representing a positivity rate just short of two-in-five.
Hospital numbers increased 57, or 3.2 per cent, to 1795, including 145 in intensive care.
Immunisation levels barely budged, with the double-dose vaccination rate 93.7 per cent for residents aged 16 and over and 78.1 per cent for those aged 12 to 15.
Vaccinations for children aged five to 11 begins on Monday.
Dr Kerry Chant on Friday said current figures were an underestimate, given the high spread in the community, difficulty accessing rapid antigen tests and the expected number of asymptomatic cases,
Case totals in coming days are likely to only capture part of the story.
Symptomatic people or close contacts who test positive to rapid antigen tests from Saturday have been instructed to treat themselves as a case.
But a mechanism to report such cases through Service NSW is still being developed.
Victoria on Friday launched a web form to report positive RATs.
If that’s his idea of success, I’d hate to hear what his idea of failure is.
Premier Dominic Perrottet defended his decision to ease restrictions last month as the state’s Omicron outbreak took hold.
Asked several times whether easing restrictions in December, only to reinstate many of them within a month, was the right call, Mr Perrottet said Omicron required a different response.
“It is much, much less severe, and the approach we’ve taken is the right approach,” he said.
“Clearly in the middle of a pandemic, when cases arise, that will dampen confidence but ultimately, the alternative is to lock down.”
But State opposition leader Chris Minns has criticised his comments.
“If that’s his idea of success, I’d hate to hear what his idea of failure is,“ he told reporters on Friday.
“At the end of the day, the premier told the people of NSW who raised concerns about hospital overcrowding and rising case numbers that they were being alarmist or they were being bed wetters.”
QLD reports 11,174 COVID cases, two deaths
Queensland has suspended non-urgent elective surgeries for eight weeks as it reports 11,174 new COVID-19 cases and the deaths of two men in their 30s.
Some public hospitals had already cut surgeries but the measure announced on Saturday would ensure no category-three and only some category-two surgeries can occur between now and March.
“We will review this until the end of January, when we will assess where we are in the surge and where we expect the peak to occur,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Saturday.
Out-patient appointments will also move to telehealth or be delayed.
The changes are part of plans, begun months ago, where the state moves through tiered stages, the minister said.
“It’s not just about bed capacity – it’s about health workers and their availability,” she said, saying 3500 were in isolation.
The state reported 11,174 cases, which is a slight rise on Friday’s numbers and takes active cases to just shy of 63,000.
Three of the 17 in intensive care units are on ventilation, among 349 in hospital.
The coroner has confirmed two more deaths, both men in their 30s who developed myocarditis.
One man was unvaccinated and died unexpectedly in his home on Wednesday, Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said.
The other died about 10 days ago.
“Myocarditis … viral infection of the heart, can be very difficult for both the patient and doctors to recognise before it causes sudden death. Symptoms can include pain behind the chest, that’s why we recommend people with significant chest pain to seek advice if they have COVID-19,” Dr Gerrard said.
“It is exceedingly rare but it has been reported in both Australia and overseas.”
The deaths are the second and third in the current wave, taking the state’s pandemic death toll to 10.
The first-dose vaccination rate for people 16 and over is 91.0 per cent, with 87.46 per cent double-dosed.
Meanwhile, the Queensland government’s decision to delay primary school students’ return if the outbreak is still peaking has been applauded by a teachers’ union.
Primary school children, many of whom won’t have had enough time to be fully vaccinated, are due to return to class on January 24. But Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that will be postponed by two to three weeks if infections are still escalating.
“The Queensland premier’s statements … on the possible delay of primary schools returning is most welcome at this uncertain time and we look forward to the full details of the plan being provided in the coming days,” said Terry Burke of Independent Education Union Queensland and Northern Territory.
“IEU-QNT members also await the full details of the national plan for the return of schools as announced by the prime minister earlier in the week.”
SA reports 4274 COVID cases, five deaths
South Australia has recorded 4274 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths, a 13 per cent rise on on the previous day and amid a 20 per cent rise in testing.
Hospitalisations rose to 164, with 16 of those in intensive care.
About 80 per cent of ICU patients are unvaccinated, despite the unvaccinated making up only 7.3 per cent of the population.
Two more health workers tested positive.
Some 608 health workers are either positive or in isolation due to being a close contact, from a workforce of 53,000.
“That number is steadily increasing and something we’re very concerned about,“ Premier Steven Marshall told reporters on Saturday.
The five deaths included a person aged in their 50s and another in their 60s.
Three cases were uncovered in remote Indigenous communities, including a person who had relocated from Adelaide.
But Mr Marshall said it was pleasing that 270 community members in Amata, in the APY Lands, had tested negative after two cases were reported there earlier.
Another 30 results are expected later on Saturday.
Mr Marshall confirmed aged care and disability workers will join healthcare workers in needing a third vaccine dose to be considered fully vaccinated.
That mandate will apply from January 30.
He warned the government was considering applying the third-dose mandate to other workforces, including childcare.
Tasmania reports 2223 new COVID-19 cases
More than 1110 Tasmanians have self-reported their positive COVID-19 status, leading to a spike in the State’s cases.
Tasmania reported 2223 new cases on Saturday – 800 higher than Friday’s figure and almost triple Thursday’s.
Some 1051 came from lab-run PCR test while 1172 were from self-reported rapid antigen tests.
“We thank Tasmanians for registering their RAT positive result on the Public Health website to help us track and provide support to cases,” Premier Peter Gutwein said in a statement.
As of 8pm on Friday, the State had 6509 active cases, with four in hospital.
Another six people with COVID-19 are in hospital for other reasons.
While cases are rising quickly, Mr Gutwein sought to reassure the public the surge isn’t unexpected or beyond the capability of a highly vaccinated population and a “well-prepared health system”.
About 9000 RATs were distributed by the State Government on Friday to symptomatic people and close contacts of positive cases.
Tasmania has increased its order for RATs to five million.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this week people who return a positive result from a RAT no longer need to have their infection confirmed with a PCR test.
Tasmania’s testing clinics have been unable to meet a surge in demand, with health authorities conceding the active case tally is likely well short of the recorded figure.
ACT reports 1305 new COVID-19 cases
The ACT has posted 1305 new COVID-19 cases a day after surpassing a thousand infections for the first time.
The Territory is managing almost 5000 active cases. There are 24 patients in Canberra hospitals, five of them in intensive care and four on ventilation.
The ACT is 98.5 per cent fully vaccinated for everyone aged 12 and over, while 20.3 per cent of adult Territorians have also received a booster shot.
The capital set a daily case record on Friday with 1246 infections. In response, the government reintroduced public health measures as well as a pause on elective surgery at one public hospital.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the capital’s health system is starting to experience increased pressure, with more than 230 health care workers in quarantine.
In a statement on Friday she announced Calvary Public Hospital would cease most non-essential elective surgeries for the next six to eight weeks.
“Postponing elective surgeries is always incredibly difficult, but taking this action will enable additional health care staff to be redeployed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak,” she said.
The ACT has moved to a new system for isolation requirements following the surge in Omicron cases.
Positive cases and household contacts will still have to self-isolate for seven days, along with people who had spent a long time at a residence of someone who has tested positive.
Those who have spent a few hours with a positive case in a setting such as a bar or restaurant are required to take a rapid antigen test, and another one six days after the exposure.
Low-risk contacts have been urged to monitor for symptoms and take a rapid test if required.
NT posts record 594 COVID-19 cases
The Northern Territory has reported another daily COVID-19 case record with 594 infections diagnosed overnight.
The figure – until 8pm on Friday is up from 412 reported the previous day.
Health Minister Natasha Fyles said the virus has spread to every region in the Territory as the number of active cases grows to 1200.
“It is concerning that we have had significant escalation in the numbers but we expected this,” she told reporters on Friday.
“We can still manage these numbers that we’re seeing and I expect these numbers to grow over the coming days.”
A Territory-wide lockout of unvaccinated people aged 16 and over started on Thursday and will continue until midday on Monday when a proof of vaccination pass system will be rolled out.
It will run on the Territory’s check-in app and apply to most hospitality and entertainment venues.
Under the lockout, unvaccinated people can only leave their homes for medical treatment and testing, essential goods and services, and to care for a vulnerable person.
They are not permitted to go to workplaces or travel more than 30km.
COVID ACROSS AUSTRALIA
COVID ACROSS THE WORLD (FROM JOHNS HOPKINS AS AT 1300 WA TIME)
With AAP

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