A further 64 deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded across the country, as several jurisdictions announce a reduction in the interval between second vaccine doses and boosters.
There were 32,297 new infections recorded in New South Wales in the latest reporting period, along with 20,769 in Victoria and another 19,932 in Queensland. South Australia recorded 3,482 new cases, the ACT had 1467, Tasmania 1185, the Northern Territory 418 and Western Australia five.
NSW reported 32 deaths, Victoria 18, Queensland 11, and South Australia three. SA Health initially reported six deaths in their figures for Wednesday, but hours later advised of the lower number "following further clarification".
The number of people hospitalised in NSW is 2,863, of which 217 are in intensive care, a rise on Tuesday's figures of 2,850 and 209 respectively.
In Victoria, the figures stand at 1,173 admitted to hospital and 125 in ICU.
This is an increase in admissions against the 1,152 in hospital on Tuesday, but a drop in ICU figures which were 127.
The figures follow Australia's deadliest day of the pandemic, with 77 deaths reported on Tuesday.
There were 36 deaths in NSW, 22 in Victoria, 16 in Queensland, two in South Australia and one in the ACT.
Jurisdictions cut interval for booster vaccine
Residents of several jurisdictions will be able to access their COVID-19 booster shot sooner after it was announced the interval between the second and third vaccine doses would be reduced.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr all announced on Wednesday that residents of the respective states would be able to get their booster shot three months after the second dose, down from four months.
“That interval has been reduced effective immediately and is on the advice of our public health team and is consistent with ATAGI’s broader statement," Mr Andrews said.
Mr Perrottet said there had been a slow uptake of booster shots in NSW, which meant the state's vaccinations centres could open the door to millions more adults.
"As we are clearly seeing boosters are key to keeping yourself, your friends and your family safe," Mr Perrottet said.
Several jurisdictions have slashed the interval between the second and third COVID-19 vaccine doses. Source: AAP
He said the shorter interval would currently only apply for appointments made at state-run vaccination hubs.
Mr Marshall said cutting the interval for booster vaccines would make an extra 200,000 people eligible for a third dose.
"This next step in our Omicron response plan increases the number of South Australians eligible for their booster by about 25 per cent and will maximise our booster coverage, arming even more South Australians against the new variant by providing even better protection for the entire community," the premier said.
Mr Barr said the take-up rate for booster shots in Canberra had been strong.
"Just like the initial vaccine rollout, the ACT is leading the way with booster doses, with one-in-three Canberrans aged 18 and over now having received a third vaccination," Mr Barr said.
A second mass vaccination clinic, set up at Canberra Airport, will begin operating next week to accommodate the wider eligibility for boosters.
General practitioners and pharmacies will continue to administer booster shots after at least four months.
The federal government has said it will reduce the interval to three months from 31 January.
Queensland to open border
Queensland will scrap quarantine for twice-vaccinated international travellers from 1am on Saturday.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that almost all restrictions on vaccinated international arrivals will dropped for the first time since March 2020.
She said the date has been set as the state is set to hit a vaccination coverage target of 90 per cent double doses in coming days.
The latest figures show 91.65 per cent of eligible Queenslanders have had one dose of a vaccine, while 88.82 per cent have had two.
Ms Palaszczuk says vaccinated travellers will only have to do a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of arriving in the Queensland.
"You will not have to do our quarantine, you are free to come in," she said, adding: "We're asking you to do a RAT test within 24 hours.
"This is consistent with other states - if national cabinet decides to change that down the track, so be it, but we do believe that now is the right time with our vaccination rates."
Flu and coronavirus will be 'challenging'
Victoria will implement a code brown emergency for all its Melbourne hospitals and six in the regions from midday, .
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said winter is likely to bring a new spike in cases and potentially new variants of the virus, along with annual infections such as the flu.
"In winter we will see more COVID, that's been the case everywhere so far," he told reporters on Tuesday.
"We're almost certainly going to have a flu season this year as well in winter, and flu and coronavirus together - as is being seen in several countries in the northern hemisphere right now - is challenging."
Scrap pre-departure testing for visitors to Australia, airport CEO says
Australia's second largest airport has called for an end to pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated international travellers, ahead of a national cabinet meeting.
South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania have dropped testing requirements for the fully vaccinated arriving from interstate, as COVID-19 infections in both states climb following their borders reopening.
Melbourne Airport has urged the Commonwealth to do the same for double-jabbed overseas travellers, who are still required to show proof of a negative PCR test within three days of departure to Australia.
"The shift away from pre-departure testing for domestic travel is welcome and given the high levels of COVID-19 present in the Australian community, the federal government should now scrap the requirement for fully vaccinated international passengers to undertake pre-departure tests before flying to Australia," Melbourne Airport chief of aviation Lorie Argus said.
Thousands of RATs stolen
Some 42,000 rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests worth more than $500,000 have been stolen from a depot in Sydney, amid a nationwide shortage.
NSW Police were called after man walked into the freight depot in Mascot on Tuesday afternoon and "took possession" of the tests.
"The incident was reported to police and inquiries are continuing," a police spokesperson said.