Deaths from virus spike amid call for calm

Experts insist there is no need to panic as Australian COVID-19 deaths spike despite case numbers appearing to drop.

Deaths in Victoria and New South Wales increased by 39 and 45 respectively week-on-week, despite sizeable drops in cases.

Victoria recorded 12,349 new infections and 108 deaths over the seven days to Friday after recording 16,568 cases and 69 deaths the previous week.

It was a similar story in NSW as weekly reported cases to Thursday afternoon dropped to 19,793 from 27,665 the previous week, while deaths more than doubled from 32 to 77.

In South Australia deaths rose from 18 to 20 despite cases falling from 7671 to 4954.

Australian National University associate professor Benjamin Schwessinger said more data was needed to explain the shift.

"It's difficult to say because over the holidays people might just deal with COVID a little bit," he told AAP.

"We'll probably have to wait and see if this is a long-term trend or continuous trend ... if it's a 'yes', then we would have to look into the reasons of this trend."

Western Australia's cases and deaths dropped, down to 6675 and 29 respectively.

The ACT reported 1436 new cases along with four deaths and Tasmania had five deaths and 1925 cases. The Northern Territory had 406 cases and three deaths.

In Queensland, the next set of weekly infections and deaths data won't be published until January 13.

But the state's health department says there has been an encouraging 30 per cent fall in new COVID cases as the festive season comes to an end.

On January 4, Queensland recorded 10,696 cases down from 15,325 on December 20. The median age of those infected was 63 years.

However, the number of people hospitalised with COVID is still high at 540, after peaking at 599 on December 20.

"We suspect this stems from an increase in older Queenslanders getting infected over the Christmas period and the association of age with more severe disease and hospitalisation," Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said on Friday.

Variant data isn't yet available, as the country waits to see how the strain labelled "the most transmissible subvariant yet" has impacted cases.

The World Health Organisation has made that call regarding the XBB.1.5 variant, but only eight cases were found in Australia at last count.

Professor Schwessinger said the next batch of variant data would be vital.

"XBB.1.5 is interesting, because it's the most invasive variant right now, and at the same time it has increased binding to your cells, that could lead to increased entry into cells," he said.

"It's quite concerning because it's the first variant in five months or so that's really led to a complete sweep ... it's definitely something to watch."

Only one per cent of NSW cases tested for genomic sequencing in the last two weeks have been XBB.1.5.

American data says the new variant is responsible for 40 per cent of the country's new cases, although it's unclear if it's had a similar impact in China given Beijing's reluctance to share data.


* Victoria: 12,349 cases, 108 deaths

* NSW: 19,793 cases, 69 deaths

*Western Australia: 6675 cases, 29 deaths

*South Australia: 4954 cases, 20 deaths

*Tasmania: 1925 cases, five deaths

*ACT: 1436 cases, four deaths

* Northern Territory: 406 cases, three deaths