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Qld's 11 new Omicron deaths: health boss warns of virus 'armageddon' in winter

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Queensland has recorded 11 more Covid deaths overnight as the nation’s chief health officer warned it will be several weeks before deaths and hospitalisations from the Omicron variant reach their peak, despite steadying Covid-19 cases.

 

 

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Professor Paul Kelly has warned that winter was 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 said.

“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.”

Professor Kelly said Australia was up for the challenge and further planning was underway to cope with future spikes in infection numbers.

But there was no way of anticipating the severity of any future outbreak.

“Whether that will be armageddon for people that have not yet got it during this wave, or another variant, I can’t tell. That’s a crystal ball matter,” he said.

Queensland on Wednesday recorded 19,932 new cases of the virus and 11 more deaths.

In a worrying development, the ages of those losing their lives to the virus, is getting younger.

The State’s Chief Health Officer, Dr John Gerrard, said that of the 11 deaths, one was a person in their 30s, one in their 50s, two in their 60s, one in their 70s, three in their 80s and three in their 90s.

Dr Gerrard said the person in their 30s was unvaccinated but he did not yet have details on whether there were any other health issues.

Of those who lost their lives, Dr Gerrard said, two had received a first dose of the vaccine, seven were double vaccinated and two had received their booster shot and were in residential aged care, one of whom had very significant other medical issues.

Dr Gerrard said there are now 835 people in hospital across the State with COVID-19, up from 819 on Tuesday. Of these 52 are in intensive care and 18 are ventilated.

The CHO also warned of tough times ahead as the Omicron variant now sweeps across every region of the State.

“The next three weeks or so are going to be a very tough time for Queensland and also for our health care workers in Queensland hospitals,” Dr Gerrard said.

He has previously said the State should brace for “thousands” of people to end up in hospitals with the virus.

There are 6048 hospital, health care and ambulance service workers currently off work due to having tested positive or in quarantine as close contacts.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was her “sad duty” to report the 11 new deaths, down from 16 deaths on Tuesday.

NSW recorded another 32,297 Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, with a further 32 fatalities. Meanwhile, Victoria had 18 deaths and 20,769 new infections.

“We expect death and hospitalisations to continue to rise over the next couple of weeks as we are about to peak in terms of case loads, particularly in the eastern states,” Professor Kelly told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“We know from international experience that Omicron rises quickly, it plateaus and then falls quickly, and I fully expect that this will be the experience here in Australia.”

The chief medical officer said preparations were being carried out for a second rise of Omicron cases.

“I expect we will continue to see cases of Omicron right throughout the next few months, but it will be at a much lower level than it is now,” Prof Kelly said.

The rising number of deaths, with older people with underlying health conditions still the most at risk, has led the government to pull emergency levers.

It activated its private hospital agreement, giving the green light for up to 57,000 more nurses and 100,000 staff for Omicron-affected areas throughout the country.

It is also triggering the national medical stockpile to support states and territories undergoing resource shortages.

Ten million medical items – three million rapid antigen tests, two million N95 masks, two million surgical masks and up to a million each of gloves, gowns and goggles – will also be provided to the aged care sector.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticised the government for failing to plan and prepare for another outbreak.

“(Australians) are entitled to be quite angry and frustrated at the failure of this government to put in place the mechanisms that were required,” he said.

“To put in place proper testing regimes, to look after the workforce (and) to look after (aged care) residents.

“This prime minister is characterised by always waiting for a problem to become a crisis before he acts.”

Prof Kelly said public hospitals were still coping with Omicron cases.

“There is not a public hospital system in the country that has reached their level of concern,” he said.

“For hospitalisations, ICU is under pressure, particularly in Victoria, but again there’s plenty of room there.”

The head of Australia’s vaccine rollout, Lieutenant General John Frewen, said there wasn’t vaccine hesitancy among the community, despite 70,000 vaccination appointments going to waste last week.

“There have been some challenges in the system with bookings,” Lt Gen Frewen told the Nine Network.

“I think some people have been shopping around to get bookings and then maybe when they’ve got a better booking, they haven’t gone back and cancelled some of the other bookings.”

More than 5.3 million people have received their booster shot since the rollout of the third dose began in November.

More than 380,000 child vaccines have been carried out since eligibility opened for five to 11-year-olds last week.

It comes as Queensland coalition MP George Christensen was heavily criticised for urging parents not to get their children vaccinated for Covid-19.

His comments were made in a podcast interview with Dr Robert Malone, whose views of Covid-19 have been widely discredited.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told parents to ignore the advice from Christensen, saying in a statement vaccinations were the best weapon against Covid-19.

“I strongly disagree with the message sent out by Mr Christensen regarding children’s vaccinations,” Morrison said.

“It is contrary to the official professional medical advice provided to the government, and I urge parents to disregard his dangerous messages in relation to vaccines.”

Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said not enough action had been taken by the government to call out Mr Christensen’s views.

“We have government MPs using government resources to promote these deeply dangerous and divisive messages with no action from Scott Morrison,” Mr Butler told ABC TV.

“It’s all well and good that (Mr Morrison) disagrees with them and labels them dangerous, but what is he actually going to do to pull them into line?”

More than 73,000 cases of Covid-19 were reported nationally on Tuesday.

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