SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s daily coronavirus infections on Sunday fell below 100,000 for the first time in five days, amid expectations that the Omicron wave had neared its peak in New South Wales, the worst-hit state.
A total of 85,824 cases were reported by midday, down from the pandemic high of more than 150,000 hit on Thursday, with infections steadily falling since then. Northern Territory, which has been reporting cases in the hundreds, and largely virus-free Western Australia are due to report later.
Health authorities on Saturday said modelling suggested Australia was close to the peak of its worst outbreak in the pandemic but warned cases would remain elevated over the “next few weeks”.
After successfully restricting virus spread earlier in the pandemic, Australia has seen a runaway Omicron outbreak clocking more than 1.3 million cases in the past two weeks as states began easing strict COVID-19 curbs late last year when vaccination levels hit 70%-80%.
More people have also been admitted to hospitals than at any other time during the pandemic but authorities have said the health systems can cope with the rising cases.
Amid the Omicron surge, officials have been pushing for more residents to get vaccinated in Australia, where more than 92% of the population above 16 are already double-dosed.
Australia’s total infections since the pandemic began topped 1.5 million on Sunday, while deaths stood at 2,673.
New South Wales reported 34,660 new infections, while neighbouring Victoria logged 28,128 and Queensland 17,445 cases.
Photo Signage notifying customers that Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits are sold out is seen on the entrance to a chemist in Sydney, Australia, 13 January 2022. New South Wales has reported a dramatic rise in new COVID-19 infections to 92,264, on top of 22 deaths, after results of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) were included for the first time. EPA-EFE/FLAVIO BRANCALEONE