Australian States Reinstall Curbs As Omicron Falls Jump


Australia’s two most populous states reintroduced Covid-19 containments as daily infections peaked with an outbreak of the highly contagious Omicron variant and a rush to already overloaded test clinics.

The state of New South Wales, which is home to a third of Australia’s 25 million population, said the wearing of masks indoors in public places will be made mandatory again while venues have been told to restrict visitors and QR customers to check-in Re-enable code.

The state of Victoria, which has almost the same population, also reintroduced a mask mandate, highlighting the need to reduce the burden on the health system.

The changes two days before Christmas are a stumbling block in the country’s plans for a permanent reopening after almost two years of stop-start bans, as the new variant is raging through the community despite double vaccination rates of more than 90%.

Hospital stays and deaths remained small, but the infection explosion created the risk of health care workers being put on leave due to positive tests, authorities said.

The country recorded more than 8,200 new cases, by far the largest daily increase since the pandemic began, from an earlier record of 5,600 a day earlier, mostly in NSW and Victoria.

“Today’s changes are modest, cautious and precautionary as we run through this holiday season through late January,” New South Wales Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet told reporters.

To date, Mr. Perrottet had urged the state to stick to a plan agreed between state and federal leaders to lift restrictions once the vaccination rate exceeds a certain level.

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He had steadfastly refused to reinstate the mandatory wearing of inner masks, a move demanded by the country’s doctors and health workers, and said it was now time to live with Covid-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed never to return to lockdowns, saying Australians must now take personal responsibility for managing their health.

In another change in the news, Mr Perrottet urged people to avoid Covid testing if they received notification of possible contact with an infected person but showed no symptoms.

With reports of hours of waiting in test centers attributed to people planning to get on the freeway before Christmas, Mr Perrottet said “this puts tremendous pressure on the system … getting tested on time”.

Most states require travelers to have a negative test result 72 hours prior to departure in order to be allowed into entry, even though Mr Morrison has asked them to relax the test requirements.

Despite the surge in cases, hospital admissions remain far lower than they were during the Delta Wave, with about 800 people hospitalized out of nearly 44,000 active cases.

But only 37 of them are Omicron cases, said the health department in an email reply. Only one case is in the intensive care unit and no deaths have been reported with the omrican variant.

Even amid the Omicron wave, Australia is far lower than many other countries with 273,000 infections and 2,173 deaths.

Xi’an in lockdown while China has its eye on the Zero Covid Olympics

Thirteen million people in a major Chinese city have had to stay strictly at home as of today to stop the spread of Covid-19 as authorities scramble to maintain their zero-case strategy six weeks before the Winter Olympics.

Xi’an – home of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors – sharply tightened travel restrictions and urged residents to stay at home after several hundred recently reported infections were linked to a first case at a university in the city.

As Beijing prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in February, China is on high alert as it battles local outbreaks in multiple cities.

But cases have been bubbling over the past few weeks.

Xi’an reported an additional 63 cases today, days after authorities began mass tests on all 13 million residents.

According to state media, cases from Xi’an have so far spread to five other cities, including one in Beijing and one in southern Guangdong – fueling fears about how quickly the virus can spread geographically across the vast country.

In Xi’an. mass tests are carried out

As of midnight tonight, all households are “only allowed to send one household member outside to buy essentials every two days,” while all others are instructed to stay indoors except in emergencies, the city government said in a statement.

Residents “should not leave the city unless necessary,” it said, adding that those wishing to leave must apply for a permit.

All non-essential businesses were sentenced to close.

Large-scale gatherings have been suspended while the museum of the world-famous Terracotta Army – the 2,000-year-old mausoleum of the first Chinese emperor – has been closed until further notice.

Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chunlan visited Xi’an a few days before the lockdown and warned that the situation was “serious and complicated”.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, she called for “rapid measures to contain the virus in order to contain the spread”.

China – where the coronavirus was first discovered – has slowed new cases to a trickle since the middle of last year and implemented a strict zero-covid strategy with strict border restrictions, targeted lockdowns, lengthy quarantines and population tracking technologies.

A single case can result in curbs being imposed quickly, and officials deemed to have failed Covid control are often fired.

State broadcaster CCTV showed Ms. Sun meeting local officials and health workers in protective suits before inspecting a number of mobile testing laboratories.

The country has already taken tough measures to prepare for the arrival of thousands of international athletes for the Olympic Games in February.

The capital Beijing demands negative Covid tests from all visitors and restricts flights from other cities.

“Exhaustion” as Belgian hospital workers prepare to be admitted to Omicron

Just as Belgium emerges from a fourth wave of Covid infections, it is preparing for a fifth, spurred on by the Omicron variant, with health workers saying they are already at the border.

Doctors and nurses are in a state of “extreme exhaustion,” said Martial Moonen, head of the Infectious Disease Service at the Liège public hospital.

He said his ward, which currently houses 70 Covid patients, 14 of whom are in intensive care, is struggling with “permanent satiety”.

A patient with severe Covid could be in an intensive care bed for up to four weeks, significantly longer than the three-day average for other illnesses in the hospital, he said.

He said temporary reinforcements are no longer available to cover nurse absences due to illness or burnout.

For those who are still working, “there is exhaustion, so much exhaustion,” he said.

The intensive care unit of the Center Hospitalier Regional de la Citadelle in Liège

The “vast majority” of hospital patients are unvaccinated, said Dr. Moonen.

On Wednesday, the government announced that concert halls, cinemas and other entertainment venues will have to close from the weekend to fight Omicron.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a media conference that Covid infections had decreased by 60% compared to three weeks ago, but that now three out of 10 positive tests are the Omicron variant.

“We have to be more careful than ever at this time when there is a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

Several virologists and epidemiologists in Belgium say they expect a fifth wave of Covid within days and leave little calm when the fourth wears off.

Authorities counted an average of 8,300 infections per day for the past week, a decrease of a third from the previous week.

But that was the delta chapter of the pandemic. According to eight genetic sequencing laboratories, more than 27% of new infections are now from the Omicron variant.

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