Coronavirus crisis: Australia’s daily virus caseload set to exceed 100,000

Australia’s daily coronavirus cases are set to hit a shocking milestone as numbers from the Eastern States alone edge towards 100,000.

Read the latest State-by-State developments:

NSW posts record 45,098 cases, nine deaths

NSW has reported another 45,098 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths, while acknowledging case numbers are likely an underestimate.

The record total comes weeks from the peak of the current Omicron outbreak, expected in mid-to-late January, according to recent NSW Health modelling.

The figures, announced on Saturday morning for the 24 hours to 8pm Friday, came from 116,915 tests, representing a positivity rate just short of two-in-five.

Hospital numbers increased 57, or 3.2 per cent, to 1795, including 145 in intensive care.

Immunisation levels barely budged, with the double-dose vaccination rate 93.7 per cent for residents aged 16 and over and 78.1 per cent for those aged 12 to 15.

Vaccinations for children aged five to 11 begins on Monday.

Dr Kerry Chant on Friday said current figures were an underestimate, given the high spread in the community, difficulty accessing rapid antigen tests and the expected number of asymptomatic cases,

Case totals in coming days are likely to only capture part of the story.

Symptomatic people or close contacts who test positive to rapid antigen tests from Saturday have been instructed to treat themselves as a case.

But a mechanism to report such cases through Service NSW is still being developed.

Victoria on Friday launched a web form to report positive RATs.

The current outbreak has led to a drop in spending in Sydney unlike any other time in the pandemic, the Tamworth Country Musical Festival to be delayed until April and non-urgent elective surgery to be halted for weeks.

From Saturday until at least January 27, singing and dancing in pubs and clubs is banned, except for weddings, performers or classes.

Premier Dominic Perrottet defended his decision to ease restrictions last month as the state’s Omicron outbreak took hold.

Asked several times whether easing restrictions in December, only to reinstate many of them within a month, was the right call, Mr Perrottet said Omicron required a different response.

“It is much, much less severe, and the approach we’ve taken is the right approach,” he said.

“Clearly in the middle of a pandemic, when cases arise, that will dampen confidence but ultimately, the alternative is to lock down.”

But state opposition leader Chris Minns has criticised his comments.

“If that’s his idea of success, I’d hate to hear what his idea of failure is,“ he told reporters on Friday.

“At the end of the day, the premier told the people of NSW who raised concerns about hospital overcrowding and rising case numbers that they were being alarmist or they were being bed wetters.”

Victoria posts 51,356 cases, nine deaths

Victoria has reported 51,356 new COVID-19 cases and nine deaths, as reporting for mass rapid antigen testing comes into play.

Saturday’s case numbers are more than double Friday’s figure, and health authorities say almost half (26,428) the positive cases in the past 24 hours were revealed using rapid antigen tests (RATs).

But only 5923 of Saturday’s positive RAT results were from the latest 24 hour reporting period.

The health department said most of the positive RAT results were from people who took the test earlier in the week, and only reported the result on Friday when the hotline and online reporting system went live.

The new system was set up after the PCR testing regime came under extreme pressure, with suspected cases queuing for hours to get tested and results taking several days to come through.

Last week four of the state’s main pathology providers suspended operations until at least Sunday due to a backlog of thousands of tests.

Despite this, Saturday’s figures include a further 24,928 cases identified through PCR lab tests, of which more than 89,000 were conducted.

It is expected the RAT reporting system will be able to handle more than 50,000 positive results a day – but the mostly self-administered tests have proved difficult to find in pharmacies and supermarkets.

Some state-run testing clinics are handing out RATs for asymptomatic people to use at home, and the Victorian government has ordered 44 million tests.

Anyone who tests positive using a RAT will be classified as a “probable” case and must isolate for seven days and notify their contacts. They will receive the same clinical and financial support as PCR confirmed cases.

The state is managing more than 83,000 active cases. There are 644 patients in hospital, the same number as the previous day.

Some 106 people are in ICUs compared to 58 on Friday and 24 on ventilation, with that figure also unchanged from the previous day.

Of Victorians aged over 18, 15 per cent have had three vaccine doses, and 93 per cent have had two.

Bookings are also open for children five to 11 to be vaccinated, with 25,000 appointments taken up in the 24 hours after bookings opened and the program to begin Monday.

Restrictions have also been reintroduced, including density limits of one person per two square metres for indoor hospitality and entertainment venues.

With AAP

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