Victoria’s case numbers doubled to overtake New South Wales on Saturday as the state scrambles to improve the accuracy of rapid antigen testing (RAT) numbers incorporated in the data.
States are working to include the RATs now being undertaken by people at home, with Victoria and Queensland launching self-reporting systems and NSW to follow.
Victoria’s daily figures were more than double the previous day’s total, with 51,356 cases.
But the numbers were inflated by a backlog of RAT cases which accounted for about half and included some infections that were up to six days old as well as double ups with PCR tests.
Based on a closer look at the health department figures, there were likely closer to 30,851 new cases in the state on Saturday — still a record, and an increase of more than 40 per cent on the previous day.
The Victorian health department is now rushing to improve the accuracy of the state’s COVID-19 figures.
The chief health officer’s update for Saturday said “considerable work is now underway” to integrate the RAT numbers, and ensure people who have taken a RAT and a PCR test are not counted twice.
NSW reported 45,098 infections on Saturday and is yet to launch a similar system, expected mid-week.
Patients requiring intensive care increased to 145, double the number eight days ago. Forty people were on ventilation.
New modelling shows NSW hospitalisations — up 3.2 per cent to 1795 on Saturday — are expected to hit 4500 in late January.
The worst-case scenario places the peak of the hospitalisation above 6000, which is within the state’s current capacity, Premier Dominic Perrottet says.
He has fended off criticism concerning his decision to ease restrictions last month as the state’s Omicron outbreak took hold, saying Omicron required a different response.
“It is much, much less severe, and the approach we’ve taken is the right approach,” he said on Friday, while reintroducing bans on singing and dancing at pubs.
“Clearly in the middle of a pandemic, when cases arise, that will dampen confidence but ultimately, the alternative is to lock down.”
Meanwhile doctors are pleading for more support for the struggling health system as elective surgery was cancelled in three states, hospitalisation numbers surpassed records, yet peak Omicron was still weeks away.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid called for “proper investment in public hospitals” so they could cope with surges in demand “without cancelling other people’s care”.
“So elective surgery now ceased along east coast… thousands of HCWs not at work… more in hospital with #COVID than ever before and peak Omicron is weeks away? This is our health system ‘coping’,” tweeted Dr Korshid.
“PLEASE let’s learn the lessons of the past: good health outcomes mean good economic outcomes. Protect health as a priority.”
And GPs and private doctors need help to help the rest of us: restored telehealth access, RATs, PPE/fit testing/realistic guidelines, funding for GPs to help deal with the volume of COVID demand whilst doing booster vacc and 5-11 vacc.
— AMA President (@amapresident) January 8, 2022
Infections also rose in South Australia, which recorded 4274 new COVID-19 cases amid a 20 per cent rise in testing.
One new case was SA Premier Steven Marshall’s daughter, sending the state leader into a seven-day isolation after he was declared a close contact.
Queensland reported 11,174 cases and announced the suspension of non-urgent elective surgeries for eight weeks.
In Tasmania there were 2223 new cases, 800 higher than the previous reporting period.
The Northern Territory reported a record 594 infections while cases also spiked in the ACT, with 1305 new cases, surpassing a thousand cases for the second time.
The ACT government announced people who test positive to COVID-19 with a RAT will no longer need a PCR test, bringing the territory in line with other jurisdictions.
Twenty-five people died across Australia from COVID-19 in the latest reporting period.
Meanwhile former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is among the 250,000 NSW residents currently isolating with the virus.
Like hundreds of thousands of other Australians I have tested positive for covid. Symptoms moderate so far. Isolating as required. This pandemic and especially this latest wave has put our health professionals under enormous pressure – please be polite and considerate ….
— Malcolm Turnbull 💉💉 (@TurnbullMalcolm) January 7, 2022