WA health system fears amid virus surge

A surge in COVID-19 infections in Western Australia has prompted calls for the reintroduction of restrictions amid fears the state’s health system “may get smashed”.

WA reported 17,033 new cases on Wednesday, easily the highest number in any state or territory, and a jump of more than 4600 on the 12,390 reported on Tuesday.

It took active cases across the state to almost 69,000, although the number of people in hospital actually fell slightly to 275.

Australian Medical Association state president Mark Duncan-Smith said the state’s current infection rates were the equivalent of NSW having more than 50,000 cases a day.

He also warned that hospital numbers were likely to rise, given they generally lagged a week behind any spike in infections.

“Just as it has taken a week for the numbers to go up significantly following the reduced restrictions and dropping the mask mandate, any new public health initiatives will take a week before they have any effect,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.

“In that week there is a danger that our medical system may get smashed.

“I can see where this is going and it scares me greatly.”

The AMA boss said the government should reverse its decision to drop indoor mask mandates and should reimpose other restrictions which could flatten the curve.

It should also consider delays to elective surgery.

Premier Mark McGowan said the government was monitoring the situation.

“At the moment we have a high case load, but the reality is since yesterday our hospitalisation and intensive care numbers went down,” he told reporters.

“We are expecting they will climb, but they are way below what was predicted.”

Meanwhile, Sydney University is leading an international consortium hoping to develop a ‘variant-proof’ COVID-19 vaccine.

The consortium has a $US19.3 million ($A27.7 million) grant from The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to develop a vaccine to provide broad protection against all known SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, as well as future variants.

CEPI CEO Richard Hatchett says repeated waves of COVID-19 infection around the world mean we will be living with the virus for many years.

“The threat of a new variant emerging that might evade the protection of our current vaccines is real, so investing in research and development for variant-proof SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is a global health security imperative,” he said on Wednesday.

The CEPI partnership with Bharat Biotech, University of Sydney and ExcellGene would advance the development of a vaccine to protect against future variants of COVID-19, potentially contributing to the long-term control of the virus, he said.

Professor Robyn Ward, executive dean and pro vice-chancellor medicine and health at The University of Sydney said the partnership offered the hope of developing broadly protective COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our researchers are at the medical forefront of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as anticipating what may lie ahead,” she said.

Lead University of Sydney investigator Professor Jamie Triccas said the collaboration aimed to deliver safe, affordable and highly effective vaccines to combat existing and future SARS-CoV-2 variants.


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