Omicron variant casts pall across nation


New daily case numbers of COVID-19 are expected to continue breaking records across Australia after the new year began with highs in many states

The Omicron variant is disrupting daily life for most Australians during the summer school holidays as people in Queensland wake up to new mask requirements.

Masks must be worn indoors across Queensland from Sunday after the state recorded another 2266 COVID-19 cases on the first day of the year. 

Masks were previously only required indoors at supermarkets, shops, on public transport and ride share as well as airports and planes, cinemas and theatres in Queensland.

From Sunday they will also be required at workplaces unless unsafe to do so, pubs, clubs and cafes unless when seated, indoor stadiums and sport arenas, libraries, hair dressers and nail salons and medical centre waiting areas.

Queenslanders were also urged to return to work-from-home arrangements where possible.

Australia’s two most populous states – NSW and Victoria – kicked off 2022 with record numbers of new COVID-19 cases on Saturday.

NSW recorded another 22,577 COVID cases and four deaths as the state’s huge outbreak continues to surge.

The rising case numbers come as Premier Dominic Perrottet continues to focus on hospitalisation and intensive care numbers rather than the daily case total.

There are currently 901 people hospitalised with the virus in NSW, with 79 people in intensive care.

Victoria recorded another 7442 COVID-19 infections – a jump of more than 1500 cases from Friday’s 5919 infections.

Meanwhile, Western Australia has moved both Tasmania, which jumped from 520 active COVID-19 cases to 938 on New Year’s Day, and the ACT, which increased by 448 cases to a total of 1479, from medium risk to high risk.

This means that, from Monday, anyone entering the state from the ACT or Tasmania must be fully vaccinated, take a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and take another test on day 12 of their 14-day self-isolation.

They must also use the G2G Now app while in quarantine. 

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said with a highly vaccinated population the state would not be heading into lockdown or closing its borders because of the climbing case numbers.

However, he did advise caution to travellers, reminding Tasmanians and visitors if they contracted the virus or became a close contact while away, they would have to isolate at their own cost.