Aussie hospitals brace for 'big threat' as Covid reinfections soar

Australian hospitals are “facing a really big threat” as the country battles new Covid Omicron sub-variants and rising reinfections, Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Chris Moy warns.

Speaking with Sunrise on Tuesday morning, Dr Moy said the “fear index is extremely high” as hospitals around the country brace for a spike in Covid admissions amid tens of thousands of new infections a day.

On Sunday, more than 32,000 new cases were confirmed, with 4,327 of those people currently in hospital, according to the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care. Another 32,129 new cases were recorded around the country on Monday.

There were an estimated 312,168 active cases across the country on Tuesday.

This could spell disaster for emergency health responders, Dr Moy said.

Paramedics are seen at a hospital in Melbourne, where the Covid infections are rising.
Dr Moy said the 'fear index is extremely high' as hospitals around the country brace for a spike in Covid admissions. Source: AAP

'New variant can be more severe'

“Now we’re facing this wave which is scaring us because the BA.4 and 5 Omicron sub-variant strains are more infectious, cause more reinfections and could also potentially cause more severe disease because they can go down into the lungs,” Dr Moy told Sunrise.

“So we are really worried about being overwhelmed,” he said, adding that there is a huge concern about patients receiving delayed care.

Dr Moy told the ABC on Monday that more people are “ending up in hospital just when our hospitals are absolutely chock-a-block full because they’ve been neglected for so long”.

“We’re just about to enter a much worse phase,” he said, while urging Aussies to wear their masks and get their fourth vaccine booster shot, which has been made available to everyone over the age of 30.

New Covid wave yet to peak

Health Minister Mark Butler has revealed the latest Covid wave has yet to peak nationally and probably won’t do so for at least another four weeks.

"All of the modelling indicates that case numbers and hospitalisations have further to go over probably the next four to six weeks," he told Melbourne radio 3AW on Tuesday.

We've seen some data out this morning that suggests that Covid is the largest killer of Australians this year, taking over from coronary disease.Health Minister Mark Butler

Covid reinfections rising

Anyone who has recently come down with Covid could become reinfected in a matter of weeks, Associate Professor Paul Griffin from the University of Queensland warned on Tuesday.

"We are seeing reinfections being more common and in short intervals," the infectious diseases expert told the Seven network on Tuesday.

"If you get symptoms again, you need to assume it could be a new infection."

His comments come after the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee recommended the reinfection period be reduced from its current 12 weeks to 28 days, following the rise of cases of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

A graph showing the number of Covid-19 cases currently in hospital.
The number of Covid-19 cases currently in hospital. The figures are expected to rise. Source: Covid19Data

This means people will be required to get tested and isolate if they re-develop symptoms 28 days after recovering from the virus. They could be reported and managed as new cases.

NSW and Western Australia have already followed suit.

“The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are circulating widely in NSW. They are more able to evade immunity gained from previous infection and vaccination reinfection is more likely and possible just weeks after a prior infection,” NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.

“We’re urging people who have recently had Covid-19, even if they left isolation in the past four weeks, not to be complacent. If you develop symptoms again, make sure to test and isolate.”

Meanwhile, the Victorian government has ignored health advice calling for mask mandates in schools, early childhood and retail settings.

It has instead strongly recommended Victorians wear masks indoors and in crowded spaces from 11.59pm on Tuesday.

With AAP

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