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28 Dec 2021

Australia New COVID Cases Hit 11,264 as Omicron Outbreak Burdens Economy

The Index Today

On Tuesday, Australia recorded another record high in COVID-19 cases infections as an outbreak of the highly infectious Omicron variant - despite a vaccination rate of more than 90% for Australians aged over 16 and disrupted the reopening of the country’s economy, while state leaders argued over domestic border controls.

According to a Reuters calculation of state figures, the country reported 11,264 new cases of the coronavirus in the previous day. Surpassing its peak of a day earlier, as it grapples with a planned reopening while the new variant rages.

There were five COVID-19 deaths reported, taking the total fatalities to just over 2,200 since the start of the pandemic. Authorities did not specify whether any of the new deaths were related to the Omicron variant.

The Omicron variant, which medical experts say is more transmissible but less virulent than previous strains, began to spread in Australia just as the country got underway with plans to reopen for good after nearly two years of stop-start lockdowns.

The country's state leaders have brought back some COVID-19 strict measures like mandatory mask-wearing and QR code check-ins at public venues.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said a quarter of clinical tests in his state were "tourism tests" for asymptomatic people, bringing huge pressure of the health system, long testing queues and wait times of several days for results.

In one case, a Sydney testing clinic sent incorrect negative test results to 400 COVID-positive people, then prematurely sent 950 people negative results when 486 were actually positive. The bungle was the result of "human error, and when people are under pressure, human errors are more frequent", added by Hazzard.

He called on Queensland to scrap mandatory clinical tests immediately, rather than after Jan. 1 as planned, but the Queensland authorities said the policy was working.

©Photo: Jenny Evans / Getty

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