Australia records deadliest pandemic day

Andrew Brown |

Australia has recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic since the first case was detected in the country two years ago, with 98 fatalities confirmed on Friday.

Of the new deaths, 39 came from Victoria alone, with 35 in NSW, 18 in Queensland, five in South Australia and one in the ACT.

The previous one-day high for COVID-19 deaths was set just last week when 88 deaths were recorded.

While COVID-19 cases are plateauing, chief nurse Professor Alison McMillan, said death rates were set to remain high for some time.

“As we have seen during the two years of the pandemic, the number of deaths associated with those cases stay higher for a longer period,” she told reporters in Canberra.

It comes as the eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots were expanded to 16 and 17-year-olds, after the medical regulator gave provisional approval for the age group to receive a third dose.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said final approval still needed to be handed down by the vaccine advisory group.

“We are hoping to receive the ATAGI advice within the next week, if not earlier, and if that’s a positive, we can make this available immediately,” he said.

The waiting time between second and third doses will also shorten from four months to three months from Monday, allowing more people to get the booster.

However, some states and territories have already shortened the waiting time to a three-month gap.

There have been more than 7.3 million COVID-19 boosters administered across the country, with two-thirds of those eligibly having received theirs.

While NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said people who had recently acquired COVID-19 should wait for four to six weeks after their infection to get the booster, Professor McMillan urged people to get the third dose sooner.

She said people would be able to get their booster immediately after they stopped displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

“We know that an initial infection does potentially provide you with a small amount of protection from COVID, but we really don’t yet know how much,” she said.

“But we do know that the booster will provide you with high levels of protection against severe disease and death.”

A NSW survey found half of people eligible for the COVID-19 booster didn’t know they were eligible for their third dose.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck, after it was revealed he chose to attend the cricket over a COVID-19 committee hearing when 40 per cent of the system was in lockdown.

While Senator Colbeck said he couldn’t attend the hearing due to diverting resources away from “urgent and critical work”, his register of interests showed he accepted tickets to the Ashes test in Hobart for three days.

“Ministers have many responsibilities, I can understand the criticism … I think Richard has taken that on board,” Mr Morrison told radio station 4BC.

Mr Morrison said 86 per cent of aged care facilities had received a visit for residents to get the booster shot, with the remainder to have theirs in the next week.

South Australia has announced QR code check-ins won’t be required in retail settings going forward, however they will still be required in hospitality and high-risk settings.

There were 13,333 cases in NSW, while there were 12,755 infections recorded on Friday in Victoria.

Queensland had 9974, South Australia had 1846, the NT had a spike to record 940, while there were 734 and 584 in the ACT and Tasmania respectively.