Australia braces for post-Xmas COVID rise

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

An post-Christmas jump in COVID-19 infections is expected after lower testing rates and a batch of falsely negative results.

Australia dodged the unwanted milestone of 10,000 new daily cases on Boxing Day only due to a significant drop in cases in Victoria compared to Christmas Day. 

But St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney has admitted it accidentally told more than 400 people on Christmas Day they had tested negative to the virus when they had in fact tested positive.

The hospital moved to clear the air on Boxing Day and notified those who had received the wrong results, but concerns remain over people who would have been infectious in the community after being reassured by their initial negative test.

ACT health authorities on Sunday night said two of its centres would prioritise COVID-19 testing for people with the highest need.

“Unfortunately the high demand caused by pre-travel testing requirements from other jurisdictions, has caused long waits at our testing centres,” ACT Health said in a statement on Sunday night.

From 11am to 3pm on Monday the centres at Garran and Mitchell will only test people with symptoms, fully vaccinated close contacts and those who have returned from overseas.

South Australia is now asking interstate visitors to take a rapid antigen test upon arrival instead of a PCR test.

SA has implemented density limits and reductions of the number of people allowed at family gatherings from Monday to curb the spread of the virus.

More than 9600 cases were recorded across the country on Sunday after NSW and South Australia both recorded new daily case highs, with 6394 and 774 infections respectively. 

The NSW record came despite a drop of 40,000 tests on Christmas Day.

Numbers fell in Victoria which recorded 1604 daily infections, down around 500 cases from the day before. There were two deaths in the state.

There were 714 cases in Queensland, 71 in the ACT, 44 in Tasmania – a new daily record for the island state – and 12 in the Northern Territory.

There was also one case in Western Australia which will be included in Monday’s numbers. 

The more than 400 false-negative cases are yet to be officially recorded.

Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said he expected numbers to increase after Christmas as more people come forward to be tested.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard suggested everyone in Australia would contract Omicron at some stage, noting symptoms appear milder and the current approach to isolation may change.


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