New virus death toll high within 24 hours


Australia has taken less than 24 hours to again surpass its highest daily total of COVID-19 deaths.

While a pandemic-high 93 fatalities were recorded on Friday, another 97 had been announced by early Saturday afternoon and with numbers still to be reported in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

NSW accounted for 49 of that total, its highest daily toll to date. Victoria had registered 31 deaths, Queensland 12 and South Australia five.

More than 3630 Australian lives have been lost since the pandemic began, over a thousand of them this month.

Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan cautions that death rates will remain high for some time even as infections appear to plateau.

The federal government is meanwhile awaiting final approval for children aged 16 and 17 to receive booster shots, following the initial green light from Australia’s medicines regulator.

Health Minister Greg Hunt expects the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to sign off on the move next week, paving the way for the rollout to start.

The wait time for boosters across the country will also drop from four to three months on Monday.

Professor McMillan says people who have contracted COVID-19 should get a third dose as soon as they are symptom-free.

This is in contrast with NSW advice telling people to wait for between four and six weeks after recovering from the virus.

The return of schools next week, accompanied by states’ rapid test surveillance, is expected to drive daily case tallies up again.

Queensland earlier delayed its school return by two weeks until February 7, while South Australia decided on a staged return over the coming fortnight. 

NSW recorded 13,354 new infections on Saturday and Victoria 12,250.

There were 10,391 cases announced in Queensland, 1740 in South Australia, 683 in Tasmania and 620 in the ACT.

Meanwhile the United Workers Union has launched an attack on the federal government over the deaths of more than 200 aged care residents in the past week.

The union says the first month of 2022 has been deadlier for aged care residents than all of last year.