Hospitalisation data key to Omicron peak

Infectious disease experts have warned it may still be some time before it’s known the peak of the Omicron outbreak has passed.

While various chief health officers have said COVID-19 case numbers linked to the new variant are starting to plateau, leading epidemiologists have said it may take two to three weeks to get a more accurate picture.

Associate professor Sanjaya Senanayake from the Australian National University said hospitalisation data would be key in determining when the peak had passed.

“The numbers that the chief health officers are telling us every day about their state or territory are likely to be very inaccurate because there’s just so much Omicron out and about and a lot of asymptomatic Omicron,” he told the Nine Network.

“We do know there’s a delay from a case to a hospitalisation by two or three weeks, and because of delays in testing.”

He said South Australia had already reached the peak of Omicron, based on hospitalisation figures.

As the wave continues, people will rely on rapid antigen tests more to attend school and work safely.

Professor Senanayake said supply was critical in those settings.

“It’s clearly obvious now that rapid antigen tests are key to keeping our society functioning,” he said.

“If governments can get enough tests, then I think it is worthwhile using it in the school model.”

Unions are also threatening strike action due to shortages of rapid tests and inadequate COVID safety measures.

It comes after an emergency meeting convened by the Australian Council of Trade Unions on Monday.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said some employers had tried to force employees to come to work while they are COVID positive.

“That’s the type of example where workers do have a right to stop work and not work in situations where they’re being put in danger,” she told the Nine Network.

“We also need to upgrade our safety measures because this is Omicron, not Delta, and the thing is, you can’t be sort sighted about this.”

The unions have also called for the federal government to provide rapid tests to workers for free.

Unions are also reserving their rights to cease work or ban unsafe practices if employers fail to act.

There were more than 70,000 new infections across the country on Monday, with 29,504 in NSW, 22,429 in Victoria, 15,122 in Queensland, 3829 in South Australia, 1601 in the ACT, 1037 in Tasmania, 284 in the Northern Territory and 12 in Western Australia.

More than one-in-four Australians over the age of 18 have had their booster shot and one-in-seven aged between five and 11 were jabbed in the first week of eligibility.


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