Covid caseloads forecasted to hit one million

 

FORECASTS on caseloads of COVID-19 in Australia are reaching new heights just as NSW reintroduces rules to help stem the rapid upswing in cases.

For now we are back to the 2 square metre rule, QR code check in’s and those using Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) being required to register positive cases with the authorities.

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However finding a RAT test is becoming increasingly difficult.

The Hunter New England Health region has experienced high caseloads and there are fears that the official numbers are lower than the reality, due to the many testing clinics being closed or overwhelmed and turning people away.

The latest VaxEnomicTM Forecaster data shows that Australia will reach one million people officially living with a Covid diagnosis within days – more than lung disease and cancer – with one in every 20 New South Wales and Victorian residents already contracting the virus.

Provocate Managing Director Troy Bilsborough – a former senior advisor to Federal Health, Aged Care and Child Care Ministers – warned this could leave a lasting legacy beyond the latest Omicron wave that could swing the health vote at upcoming Federal and state elections.

Provocate’s VaxEnomicTM Forecaster shows Australia has passed three-quarters of a million cases as at 7 January 2022.

Mr Bilsborough said Provocate expected this, combined with growing “electionomics”, would see a swift shift in pressure on governments and businesses to treat Covid and any long-term health risks as chronic illness.

“The big risk for incumbent governments in 2022 is the growing number of Australian households directly impacted by a Covid diagnosis vote based on what their health, not their head, says,” Mr Bilsborough said.

“Healthcare influenced more votes than any other issue at the last Federal election.

“One million Australians being diagnosed with Covid means the virus itself – not just talk about it – has gone mainstream and it risks leaving a lasting legacy in voters’ minds once Omicron’s been and gone.”

Mr Bilsborough said prior to Christmas, Covid had largely been a theoretical threat for most Australians, meaning governments were being judged on their competency as emergency and economic managers, not their healthcare credentials.

He warned governments to be careful transitioning their sales pitch to Covid being akin to a common cold too quickly or risk alienating voters further, particularly after the WHO warned labelling Omicron mild a “mistake”.

“The fact there’s now more cases of Covid than other key chronic health election issues like cancer, kidney and lung disease almost guarantees it will feature as a key issue in the minds of voters in 2022.

“Governments and business must navigate the next few months carefully and gently, particularly given the predicted increase in Long Covid claims and how any alleged chronic illness will be treated, funded and supported under Medicare, private health, social services and industrial law.

Meanwhile The NSW Government has announced a range of precautionary measures to provide additional support for the health system and community ahead of an anticipated peak in COVID cases later this month.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the state had met and overcome many challenges over the past two years and dealing with the latest strain was no different.

“We’re dealing with a highly transmissible variant but fortunately it appears to be a much less severe form of COVID-19 and our high vaccination rates are clearly helping to keep people safe,” Mr Perrottet said.

“To alleviate pressure on the hospital system and staff, we’re extending the usual holiday suspension of non-urgent elective surgery through to February and will utilise private hospital capacity where needed, as we did during the Alpha and Delta outbreaks.

“Public health orders will also be updated next week to include a requirement that people report their positive Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) results, linking those impacted with health support and advice about how they can manage their symptoms from home.”

Some minor amendments to restrictions in social settings have also been made.

“These adjustments will allow us to continue to live with Covid and manage the pandemic in a measured and considered way,” Mr Perrottet said.

From 8 – 27 January, 2022, singing and dancing will be prohibited in hospitality venues (including pubs, clubs, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants), entertainment facilities, and major recreation facilities. This prohibition will not apply for weddings.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

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