Australia sees spike in COVID deaths due to Omicron outbreak

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Australia reported one of the highest daily death rates from new coronavirus on Thursday, while hospitalizations hovered near a record high as authorities struggle to get ahead of highly contagious Omicron variants.

Options BA.4/5 are good at evading immune defenses from vaccination or previous infection and causing a surge in new infections around the world.

Australia is reporting its highest daily numbers since the first wave of Omicron earlier this year, with 89 coronavirus deaths on Thursday and 90 on Wednesday. Just over 55,600 new cases were reported on Thursday, the highest since May 18.

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said state and federal health officials have not recommended making masks mandatory indoors, despite calls from some doctors to do so.

Australia has been able to avoid the high death rates seen elsewhere during the first waves of the pandemic, thanks in large part to a high level of community adherence to strict social distancing restrictions.

But there is little public willingness to return to such measures to stop the latest surge in infections, and Albanians are resisting pressure from some health experts to make the use of masks mandatory.

“It’s useless to have a mandate if it’s not respected,” Albanese told ABC radio.

Shoppers line up outside a pharmacy in Western Sydney to buy rapid antigen test kits following the COVID-19 pandemic in Sydney, Australia on January 1.  5, 2022.

Shoppers line up outside a pharmacy in Western Sydney to buy rapid antigen test kits following the COVID-19 pandemic in Sydney, Australia on January 1. 5, 2022.
(Reuters/Jamie Joy)

He said health officials should also consider the impact of tight restrictions on mental health.

The latest wave of Omicron brings the number of people with COVID-19 in Australian hospitals closer to the peak it reached in January. About 5,350 patients are in hospitals, and several states are struggling with record hospitalizations.

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Authorities urged businesses to allow staff to work from home and advised people to urgently get boosters, with only about 71% of the eligible population receiving their boosters. About 95% of people over 16 received two doses.

Ever since the pandemic started Australia reported about 9 million cases of COVID-19 and 10,968 deaths.