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Queensland's Omicron pain: 16 dead, 'thousands' headed for hospital

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Queensland’s Chief Health Officer has warned that “thousands” more Queenslanders are headed for hospital before the state’s Omicron wave peaks, with a record 16 deaths being recorded in the state in one dark day.

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Dr John Gerrard predicted “thousands” would end up in hospital as the current wave of the virus inches closer to the predicted peak at the end of January. On Tuesday, the State recorded 15,962 new cases of the virus.

And authorities issued a desperate call out for those who have yet to receive their third booster shot and who are eligible to get it done as soon as possible.

“This virus finds the unvaccinated. Now we can say Omicron finds the elderly who have not had a booster and we need to get them boostered,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Tuesday.

In response to rising hospital admissions due to the rapidly spreading and highly contagious Omicron variant, D’Ath also announced changes to hospital visitor rules to limit those allowed into hospital settings.

She said only two people would be allowed to visit in wards and only one additional person would be allowed, in addition to the patient, into emergency departments. Exceptions will be allowed for palliative care, end of life and maternity.

Of the 16 who lost their lives in the past 24 hours, three were in their 70s, eight were in their 80s, four in their 90s and one person was aged 100.

Gerrard said four had not been vaccinated, two had one dose, 10 were double dosed and none had received a booster.

Nine of them were in residential aged care facilities.

It brings the total number of Queensland deaths since December 13, when borders were opened, to 45. Gerrard said of those 45, only one person had received a booster shot.

“The virus does seem to be finding older people who have not received that third dose,” he said.

He said that of the 45 deaths, 22 had died in hospital, 17 in residential aged care and five had died at home.

There are now 819 people in hospital with COVID-19, well up from 702 on Monday and 50 of those in hospital are in intensive care, 18 on ventilators.

Gerrard said the State was planning for hospital admissions in the thousands as the virus wave intensifies.

He said the virus was now widespread across Queensland. The entire metropolitan Brisbane area, Ipswich, Cairns and the Gold Coast were all recording significant numbers.

D’Ath called on all those who had not received a booster shot of the vaccine and who were eligible, to prioritise doing so, particularly for the elderly and the vulnerable.

She also called on those in the 20-39 year age group, particularly those who had the virus, to get their next vaccine as soon as they had recovered and not to wait.

And she said there had been a slowing down of the vaccinate rates for 12-15 year-olds. So far only 65.81 per cent of  this cohort were double vaccinated and D’Ath said the return to school in February meant it is was imperative more are vaccinated.

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