Sydney Omicron outbreak could peak by end of January, modeling shows

SYDNEY, Jan. 7 (Reuters) – The Omicron outbreak in Australia’s most populous state could peak by the end of January, official modeling showed on Friday, as authorities reinstated some restrictions in the aim to slow the record peak of infections.

After containing the virus through lockdowns and strict border rules earlier in the pandemic, Australia now suffers from much higher infection rates than elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region.

New South Wales (NSW) Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet has postponed elective surgeries and reinstated a ban on singing and dancing in clubs and pubs, including in the capital Sydney state and home to more than 5 million people.

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“It’s a tough time, not just in New South Wales, but around the world,” Perrottet said at a press briefing on Friday, as people admitted to state hospitals with COVID -19 nearly doubled to a record 1,738 in just over a week.

It could reach around 6,000 by the end of this month in the worst case scenario, but it would still be below hospital capacity, modeling from the NSW Department of Health showed. The number of hospitalizations is expected to drop from February.

NSW has recorded more than 100,000 cases in the past three days, more than the total number of Delta infections reported between mid-June and the end of November, when the first Omicron case was detected.

Daily cases in NSW reached 38,625 on Friday, surpassing the previous pandemic record of 35,054 on Wednesday, down from around 250 a month ago.

Omar Khorshid, the head of the Australian Medical Association, accused the Prime Minister of having a ‘let it rip’ policy and criticized his decision to ease almost all severe restrictions about a month ago after more inoculations high.

“There is no way they will reverse this curve until everyone is immune or has caught the virus,” Khorshid told the Ten Network on Friday.

Australia reported record cases for the fifth day in a row on Friday, with more than 78,000 infections. Thursday’s cases stood at 72,401. Since the start of the pandemic, Australia has recorded more than 762,000 cases and 2,321 deaths.

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Reporting by Renju Jose; edited by Stephen Coates

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