Another 64 people have died from COVID-19 across Australia

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of a further 64 people across Australia, with fatalities recorded in five states

Health care workers administer COVID-19 PCR tests at the St Vincent’s Drive-through Clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Saturday, January 1, 2022. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi) NO ARCHIVING

Healthcare workers administer COVID-19 tests at the St Vincents Drive-through Clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Source: AAP

Another 64 people across Australia have died from COVID-19 as cases continue to grow.

NSW recorded 30 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, while Victoria reported 20 and Queensland posted 10.

Health authorities in South Australia announced a further three COVID-related deaths, while Tasmania recorded its second death since its border opened in December.

After dropping for two consecutive days for the first time in a month, the number of hospitalisations in NSW increased again on Saturday, with 2762 people in hospital. 

However, the number of people in ICU decreased by five to 204.

That's better than NSW Health's "best-case scenario" predictions, based on outbreaks in London and South Africa, that projected a peak of 3,158 people in hospital and 270 in ICU.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet again stressed on Saturday that vaccinations and boosters were key to living alongside the virus, and the health system is "under pressure" but coping.

He says "the facts and the evidence speaks for itself" on vaccinations.

Fully vaccinated people make up 93.9 per cent of the population in NSW, and the significantly smaller number of unvaccinated people make up almost 50 per cent of the people in intensive care units with the virus, the premier says.

There were 8,566 cases reported from rapid antigen tests on Saturday and NSW Health says 7,687 are from the previous seven days.

Authorities also note "there may be some cases included in these numbers where people have reported positive RATs on multiple days ... or had a positive PCR test during the same reporting period".

A week before the NSW school term is due to begin the state is yet to release a plan to return kids to classrooms amid the continuing outbreak.

"We are doing it in a way that is safe for parents, safe for teachers and safe for children, and we'll be announcing those plans alongside the Victorian Government shortly," Mr Perrottet said on Saturday.

The premier on Friday said rapid antigen tests would play a "short-term role" to boost confidence and that opening schools on day one was "critically important".

Opposition Leader Chris Minns said parents and teachers urgently needed clarity.

"We really need the NSW premier to front up and explain to the parents and teachers and students of this state when that plan will be released," he said on Friday.

COVID-19 cases in Victoria grow

Victoria has recorded 16,016 new COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths, as the state attempts to beef up substitute teacher reserves ahead of expected disruptions when classes resume.

The new infections, confirmed by the health department on Saturday, include 8,432 from PCR tests and 7,584 from rapid antigen tests.

It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 217,505, which includes 1,029 people in hospital, a decrease of 67 on Friday's figures.

The number of Victorians in intensive care sits at 120 and there are 39 people on a ventilator.

It comes as the Victorian government calls on inactive or retired teachers, education support staff, retired principals and staff with administrative experience to put their hands up to fill COVID-related vacancies in state schools.

Workers who join the pool will be sent to local schools to replace teachers and other education support staff at short notice, if and when they contract COVID-19 and need to isolate.

"Every sector is under pressure from the Omicron variant and education will be no exception - but we're taking action early to make sure staff absences don't mean huge disruptions for students' learning," Education Minister James Merlino said in a statement on Saturday.

The Victorian government is still yet to detail its back-to-school plan but has vowed students will return to classes when term one begins on 31 January.

What's happening elsewhere?

Another 10 people have died in Queensland's COVID-19 wave as the state records 15,050 new cases and international quarantine requirements relax.

The latest deaths include one person in their 40s and one in their 50s, and come as the state's hospital admissions for COVID-19 climb to 884.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said ICU numbers had dropped marginally from 54 to 52, and signs that the virus wave had peaked over the border in NSW were positive for the state.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard speaks to the media during a press conference.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard speaks to the media during a press conference. Source: AAP

He remains confident Queensland's peak will come about two weeks after NSW, and said areas including the Gold Coast and Brisbane would be among the earliest.

"The peak is not the end, the peak is the high point of transmission," he said on Saturday.

Speaking from the Brisbane International Airport Terminal, tourism minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the latest deaths were "terrible news" for family and friends.

The first quarantine-free international flights arrived in Brisbane on Saturday, with passengers initially being made up of returning citizens, students and workers.

It signals the start of a "slow rebuild" for the state's international tourism industry, Mr Hinchliffe said.

South Australia recorded three further deaths as the number of hospitalisations fell by 23 to 275.

ICU numbers increased slightly to 37 in the state, and seven people remain on ventilators.

Tasmania posted 726 virus-related cases and one death, its second virus-related fatality since the state reopened the border in December.

It was the fifth day in a row that infections have fallen in the state.

With additional reporting by SBS News.

5 min read
Published 22 January 2022 at 9:06am
Source: AAP, SBS