Officials optimistic as Omicron peak nears

Andrew Brown |

The government is securing more COVID-19 vaccination doses and treatments, Greg Hunt says.
The government is securing more COVID-19 vaccination doses and treatments, Greg Hunt says.

Health authorities across the country remain cautiously optimistic Australia is nearing the peak of the Omicron wave of COVID-19.

While case numbers remain relatively high, Health Minister Greg Hunt said data was pointing to a plateau for new infections.

Mr Hunt said there were clear signs from the ACT and NSW numbers were flatlining.

“There are signs of a plateauing, and that is playing itself through in terms of the number with serious illness as well as the number of those who are being diagnosed,” he told ABC Radio.

Authorities in Victoria said the state is close to its peak for the Omicron wave, while a spike in cases on the Gold Coast will also reach its highest point by next week.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, but I do think we’re reasonably close to a peak,” Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said on Monday.

It comes as union leaders will gather for an emergency meeting later on Monday on how workers could be kept safe on the job while there are still high cases levels.

Part of the meeting will examine the lack of availability of rapid antigen tests that many workers require to attend their job.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government needed to engage with workers in order chart a path forward about working safely while there are large infection rates.

“The most important thing we need to see from Scott Morrison is for him to fix this mess that he’s made of rapid antigen tests,” he said.

“All of those other challenges around shortages in our supermarkets and the issues in our workforce all go back one way or another to that defining failure.”

The prime minister said changes to close contact definition and testing requirements was alleviating pressure on supply chain issues.

However, he said Australia was not unique in its shortages of rapid tests.

“The rapid antigen tests are in short supply all around the world,” Mr Morrison told Sydney radio 2GB.

“It’s part of dealing with Omicron. (It’s) disrupted everything, so we’ve changed so much to ensure we can get through what is a difficult period.”

Nearly 70,000 cases were reported nationally on Monday, with more than 29,000 infections and 17 deaths in NSW.

In Victoria there were six deaths and 22,429 cases while there were seven death and 15,122 cases in Queensland.

Tasmania also registered 1037 new cases.

Nearly five million people have received their booster shot since he start of the rollout.

The medical regulator is expected to fast-track an application by Pfizer for a booster shot for 16 and 17-year-olds.

Currently, only people 18 and over are eligible for boosters.