Omicron-related deaths ‘haven’t peaked yet’

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It will be several weeks before deaths and hospitalizations from the Omicron variant peak, despite the plateau of COVID-19 cases, according to the nation’s chief medical officer.

Paul Kelly said despite a challenging couple of weeks with Omicron, the worst was still some time away.

“We expect deaths and hospitalizations to continue to rise over the next few weeks as we peak in terms of case numbers, particularly in the eastern states,” Professor Kelly told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“We know from international experience that Omicron rises quickly, plateaus and then falls quickly, and I fully expect that to be the experience here in Australia.”

Australia on Tuesday had the highest single-day death toll from the pandemic, with 77 reported deaths.

That number included 36 deaths in NSW, 22 in Victoria, 16 in Queensland – more than double the previous peak – two in South Australia and one in the ACT.

The chief medical officer said preparations were being made for a second surge in Omicron cases.

“My expectation is that we will continue to see cases of omicron over the next few months, but at a much lower level than now,” Prof Kelly said.

The federal government activated its private hospital arrangement, which would allow more than 57,000 nurses from private hospitals to be deployed in Omicron-affected areas across the country.

The agreement was created in 2020 after the pandemic started.

However, Prof Kelly said public hospitals were still dealing with omicron cases.

“There is no public hospital system in the country that has reached the level of concern,” he said.

“When it comes to hospitalisation, the intensive care unit is under pressure, particularly in Victoria, but even there there is a lot of space.”

The head of Australia’s vaccine rollout, Lieutenant General John Frewen, said there had been no vaccine hesitation in the community despite wasting 70,000 vaccination appointments last week.

“There were some challenges in the system with bookings,” Lt. Gen. Frewen told Nine Network.

“I think some people have been looking around to get bookings and then maybe if they have a better booking they haven’t gone back and canceled some of the other bookings.”

Since the third dose began rolling out in November, more than 5.3 million people have received their booster shots.

More than 380,000 children’s vaccinations have been administered since eligibility for five to eleven year olds opened up last week.

It comes as Queensland Coalition MP George Christensen has been heavily criticized for urging parents not to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19.

His comments were featured in a podcast interview with Dr. Robert Malone, whose views on COVID-19 have been widely discredited.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged parents to ignore Mr Christensen’s advice, saying in a statement vaccination is the best weapon against COVID-19.

“I absolutely disagree with Mr Christensen’s message about vaccinating children,” Mr Morrison said.

“It goes against the government’s official professional medical advice and I urge parents to ignore its dangerous messages regarding vaccines.”

Labor health spokesman Mark Butler said the Government had not taken enough action to voice Mr Christensen’s views.

“We have MPs using government resources to spread these deeply dangerous and divisive messages without action from Scott Morrison,” Mr Butler told ABC TV.

“It’s all well and good that (Mr. Morrison) doesn’t agree with them and calls them dangerous, but what will he actually do to line them up?”

More than 73,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported nationwide on Tuesday.

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