Most of Qld to ‘get’ Omicron within weeks

Robyn Wuth |

Queensland is racing toward a peak in COVID-19 infections linked to the highly contagious Omicron variant, with most of the population likely to be exposed “within weeks”.

Daily COVID-19 cases surged to 4249 on Monday and a man in his late 30s died, taking the state’s death toll since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 to eight.

Active cases soared to 20,239, with 10 people currently in hospital intensive care units and one on a ventilator.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said the man had “probable COVID-19” and died suddenly at his home on the Gold Coast.

The death is under investigation and a report is being prepared for the coroner. 

“I would say that it’s very, very unusual for a young man to die suddenly from COVID-19,” Dr Gerrard said.

“It’s a very unusual circumstance so it needs further investigation to find out exactly what has happened here.”

Testers processed 30,806 COVID-19 tests conducted in the 24 hours to 7am on Monday.

“We know there has been a strain on testing in Queensland, as there has been in every state of Australia in every country of the world,” Dr Gerrard said.

Dr Gerrard warned the Omicron variant continued to defy predictive modelling trends.

“It’s very different, what we’re experiencing at the moment. The Omicron strain has made it a little bit more difficult because of the rapid rise in the number of cases we’re seeing,” he said.

“We’re expecting in the next few weeks very substantial numbers of people to get infected – all of us are going to be exposed in the next few weeks.”

Health authorities are preparing for the predicted spike by stocking up on millions of rapid antigen test kits, as demand skyrockets across the country. 

“We’ve been able to secure a stockpile of 18 million rapid antigen tests,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Monday.

The stockpile includes 12 million at-home tests and almost six million point-of-care tests.

“Global demand for rapid antigen test kits is significant,” Ms Palaszczuk said.  

“Securing an extra 12 million at-home tests for Queensland will help us meet demand as we transition to the new nationally agreed isolation and testing requirements for close contacts. 

“The additional supplies will arrive over coming weeks.”

Dr Gerrard also warned Omicron was “far more severe” than the seasonal strains of influenza.

“The number of cases we will be seeing with Omicron will be vastly greater than that we experience in a typical influenza pandemic or epidemic or seasonal epidemic and so that has a huge impact on the hospitals.

“This is not influenza, it is more severe.”

The premier also urged Queenslanders to “mask up” and to do the right thing by the community. 

“I know it’s holidays at the moment and everyone’s out there enjoying themselves, but think very carefully about where you’re going,” she said. 

“Think very carefully about your family, your friends, your interactions, and we’ll get through this together if everyone does the right thing.”