Australia reports pandemic high case numbers as omicron arrives

The reopening of borders and state economies, combined with the fast-spreading omicron virus, has seen Australian jurisdictions report a pandemic high 8205 cases.

Australia recorded its highest daily case load of the pandemic as east coast states report surging omicron cases, with 8205 cases reported so far on Thursday. This is more than double the 3423 cases reported a week ago.

The surge in cases means Australia, other than West Australia, is finally leaving its aggressive suppression phase of tight control over COVID-19 cases.

The widespread prevalence of omicron is seeing the country move to a phase where there is widespread community transmission, but with people protected from severe disease by vaccines.

Thursday typically sees the highest case reports of a week, but the surge means the country after a period of nearly two years of tight control over cases, is joining the international community, as it deals with a major outbreak of cases.

NSW reported 5715 cases, sharply up from the previous days 3423 cases, pushing its effective reproduction number up to an estimated 2.45, after the number had been falling in recent days as case growth tapered. The state is expected to announce this afternoon QR check ins will be reinstated, a week after they were dropped.

Victoria also saw its cases leap into the two thousands, after several weeks of cases in the low to mid one thousands. It reported 2005 cases, slightly down from it’s spring delta peak of 2297 cases but with health officials predicting cases would rise as the variant became more dominant.

Queensland also saw a sharp rise rise in cases, with 364 new infections reported as the state sees large-scale incursions from NSW and Victoria.

Queensland health authorities said this was expected and was necessary in order to let the virus pandemic move to an epidemic phase.

Tasmania has also reported its highest case load with 26 cases, beating it previous the high in April last year.

The ACT has also seen a record number of cases with 85 cases, compared with 11 cases a week ago.

Northern Territory also recorded five cases.

South Australia and West Australia has yet to report cases for the day.

Hospitalisation rates have begun to rise in NSW and Victoria, but federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said ICU and ventilation numbers have yet to rise.

These are lagged by around eight days after cases are reported and will probably begin to rise next week, but with officials hopeful the expected lower virulence of the omicron variant will help suppress the impact on state health systems.

This comes amid a study from South Africa the variant is about one fifth as virulent as the delta variant.

The South Africa outbreak has begun falling rapidly, raising hopes the omicron variant could cause a sharp, but shorter outbreak. With the seven-day average falling quickly, the outbreak in South Africa is expected to be about half as long as the previous delta variant.

The Doherty Institute earlier this week projected the country could be facing 250,000 cases if measures were not changed.

National Cabinet on Wednesday endorsed a program of expanding the booster program, mask-wearing being highly recommended, and more targeted use of PCR testing for people with symptoms, rather than for travellers.

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