SYDNEY, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Australia suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic on Tuesday as a fast-moving Omicron outbreak continued to push up hospitalisation rates to record levels, even as daily infections eased slightly.
Australia is dealing with its worst COVID-19 outbreak, fuelled by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that has put more people in hospitals and intensive care than at any time during the pandemic.
A total of 77 deaths was recorded, exceeding the previous national high of 57 last Thursday, official data showed.
“Today, is a very difficult day for our state,” New South Wales (NSW) Premier Dominic Perrottet said during a media briefing as the state reported 36 deaths, a new pandemic high.
Only four of those who died in NSW had received their booster shot, prompting the state’s health officials to urge people to avoid delays and get their third dose soon. Thirty-three were double-dosed.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency in embracing the booster doses,” NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said. “For Omicron, we know that the protection is lower and we need that next boosting to get that higher level of protection.”
The surge in case numbers battered consumer confidence last week, an ANZ survey on Tuesday showed, triggering self-imposed lockdowns and stifling spending even as states looked to avoid lockdowns and keep businesses open.
Omicron also dented Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval ratings, according to a widely watched poll on Tuesday, putting opposition Labor into a leading position months out from a federal election.
Amid rising hospitalisations, Victoria on Tuesday declared a “code brown” in hospitals, usually reserved for shorter-term emergencies, that would give hospitals the power to cancel non-urgent health services and cancel staff leave.
To help public hospitals cope, the federal government has activated a plan for private hospitals to provide up to 57,000 nurses and more than 100,000 staff to Omicron-affected areas around the country, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
While authorities usually do not specify the coronavirus variant that leads to deaths, officials have said most patients in intensive care were infected with the Omicron strain, with unvaccinated young people forming a “significant number”.
Queensland said none of Tuesday’s record 16 deaths in the state had received booster shots. Of the 45 people who have died in the state due to COVID-19 since Dec. 13, only one had received their third dose.
“Please come forward and get your booster, we know that it makes a difference,” state Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said.
About 73,000 new infections were reported on Tuesday, down from a high of 150,000 last Thursday. So far, Australia has reported about 1.6 million infections since the pandemic began, of which around 1.3 million were in the last two weeks. Total deaths stood at 2,776.
Bulgaria reports new peak for daily coronavirus cases
SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria reported 9,996 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, setting a new recorFFd daily tally following a surge of cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Health authorities in the European Union’s least vaccinated country said 161 deaths had been reported on Tuesday.
Bulgaria changed its rules that could prompt new restrictions, linking them to the occupancy of intensive care beds rather than the number of new infections.
For now, health authorities are not imposing new measures, with 5,223 people in hospitals and 541 in intensive care units.
The country of 7 million people has reported 830,604 infections since the start of the pandemic and 32,247 COVID-related deaths.
Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Tomasz Janowski
PRAGUE, Jan 18 (Reuters) – The Czech Republic reported on Tuesday more than 20,000 new cases of COVID-19, the biggest single-day rise since Dec. 1, the Health Ministry said.
The central European country of 10.7 million is bracing for a new wave of the pandemic as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus begins pushing up cases.
The government has shortened quarantine and isolation times as part of new measures while also launching mandatory testing of employees at companies, which got underway this week.
On Monday, the Health Ministry recorded 20,270 new coronavirus infections, up from 7,342 a week earlier.
Hospitalisations, which peaked above 7,000 in early December in the last wave, stood at 1,660 on Monday, up a touch from Sunday.
UNVACCINATED GREEKS 60 AND ABOVE NOW FACE FINES
Individuals ages 60 and older who reside in Greece face fines beginning Monday if they are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Older individuals who are not inoculated will be fined 50 euros, which is equivalent to $57, in January, according to The Associated Press. If they still do not get the shot, they will be fined 100 euros, equal to $114, every month going forward.
The new policy, which was announced in November, comes as Greece’s vaccination rate trails that of the European Union average. Roughly two-thirds of Greece’s 10.7 million person population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but the EU has an inoculation rate of slightly more than 70 percent, according to the AP.
Individuals with valid health concerns will be exempt from the new policy, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said, according to the AP. This includes people who were recently infected and individuals who experienced delays with their applications for home vaccination.
Oikonomou said, however, that “the law will be fully enforced,” according to the AP.