Government hopes COVID peak reached, but is it dreaming?

Vaccination rates have reached 95 per cent nationwide and authorities are hopeful the Omicron wave has reached its peak and life will soon return to normal. But is this new optimism just wishful thinking?

Health minister Greg Hunt announced on Saturday that 95 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 92.5 per cent had received two doses.

“That is often referred to as a full vaccination level but we want to go further, we want to continue to encourage Australians to come forward,” Mr Hunt said in a press conference.

At the same press conference, chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly expressed hope that the peak of case numbers in the ACT, NSW and Victoria was approaching.

Read: RAT drought, yet Australian-made tests available overseas

“All predictions, and now the actual forecasting based on actual numbers of cases, particularly in NSW but also in Victoria and ACT, lead me to believe that we are close to the peak of this wave in terms of cases,” Prof. Kelly said.

But the numbers are still distressingly high. On Monday, New South Wales recorded 29,504 new cases and 17 deaths, while Victoria recorded 22,429 new cases and six deaths. The ACT recorded 1320 new cases and no deaths.

Around Australia, Queensland saw 15,222 new cases and seven deaths, and Tasmania recorded 1037 new cases and no deaths. The Northern Territory recorded its second death of the pandemic and 412 new cases.

Western Australia, still cut off from the rest of the country, recorded just two new cases and no deaths. Prof. Kelly said WA was a “different story” to the rest of the nation but will inevitably see numbers rise after borders open on 5 February.

“When they [WA] do start to get cases it will be later on,” he said.

“But for most of the rest of Australia, we are still on that upward curve, we may be plateauing and then there is a downswing of cases after that.”

Read: ‘Flurona’ threatening to derail pandemic recovery

Victorian chief health Brett Sutton was also optimistic that despite the high numbers, the peak of the pandemic was approaching, but also warned that many cases remained undetected.

“We’re close to peak, if we’re not at peak already,” Professor Sutton said.

“But we’ve got a high proportion of PCR tests coming back positive, so it does mean there are a lot of people out there who don’t know their status.”

A peak in case numbers in not necessarily the only peak associated with the pandemic.

Read: Signs you may have had COVID known it

While the Omicron variant presents as a milder – but more transmissible – form of the virus, hospitalisations are expected to rise dramatically and often lag behind case numbers by several weeks.

And with the increase in case numbers, even the less-severe Omicron is sending thousands to hospital.

NSW Health says it expects COVID hospitalisation numbers to reach a peak next week. But some experts are not confident government modelling is as accurate as it needs to be.

With current restrictions in place in NSW, the modelling shows a peak of 4700 hospitalisations, with 273 in intensive care over mid to late January,” says epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman

“It is unclear whether changes to testing rules have been factored into the modelling. However, it’s understood, even if the detection rate changes significantly, it doesn’t affect any projection of when the peak will be reached that much.”

Is it possible we may actually be reaching the peak of the pandemic? Or is the government just keen to get us back out there spending? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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