Aust edges toward COVID-19 death milestone

(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Australia’s daily COVID-19 death tallies are spiking, pushing the nation closer to chalking up 12,000 total virus-related fatalities.

The nation last week recorded three straight days of 100-plus deaths related to the virus, elevated by historical COVID-19 fatalities hitting the system in Victoria.

Another 41 were reported nationally on Sunday – taking Australia’s total toll across the pandemic to 11,845 – along with almost 30,000 new cases.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton estimated only half the actual number of infections are being picked up but said the state has likely hit its case peak, with numbers expected to fall.

The number of COVID-infected people in Victorian hospitals fell by 69 on Sunday, a drop that Victorian Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan attributed to people following official health advice.

“Our hospitals are continuing to have some challenges in working through the COVID cold and flu impacts that has been experienced right across the country,” Ms Allan said on Sunday.

“We know that by continuing to do the right thing, by getting vaccinated and socially distancing and not going to work or going to school if you’re unwell is all part of helping to manage that demand.”

One in 12 public hospital beds across Australia are filled by a COVID-19 patient, despite fewer people ending up in intensive care than during previous waves of the virus.

Hospitals nationwide are “heaving” under the coronavirus caseload, with more than 5000 beds occupied by positive patients, Health Minister Mark Butler says.

“We’re numbering about 330,000 cases on a seven-day average per week at the moment, but we know from sampling from the positivity rates that we’re getting for PCR tests, that the real number is probably at least twice that,” he told the Australian Medical Association national conference on Saturday.

“It is an extraordinary number of infections with this highly infectious new (Omicron) subvariant.”

Mr Butler said the one upside of the current Omicron wave was that ICU rates were well below where they were in January, while the number of flu cases was also declining sharply.

But he added that the take-up of third vaccine doses had “stalled to quite an alarming extent”, with around five million people yet to receive a booster after their two initial shots.


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