How Australia's rampant Omicron wave could end 'in weeks'

There is growing optimism that Australia's Omicron wave will peak and daily infections will drop away in the coming weeks.

The country notched another record day of Covid infections on Monday, with more than 36,700 cases recorded across the continent.

In NSW, the virus is running rampant with about one in five people tested returning a positive result. This week, the state could surpass its record for Covid hospitalisations as it currently sits just 62 shy of the 1266 record set on September 21 during the Delta peak.

But overseas modelling and data out of South Africa – where the Omicron strain is thought to have originated – indicates the worst could soon be over.

People wearing face masks stand in line during the Covid pandemic.
There is growing optimism that Australia's Omicron wave won't surge for all the much longer. Source: Getty Images

According to The Australian, federal government officials are "heartened" by a growing belief that the Omicron wave could quickly rescind.

"We are not willing to call it yet, but we are heartened by the direction in South Africa," a senior official told the paper.

"There are genuine grounds for hope. And the hope is that this is an indication of what is happening globally."

South Africa last week lifted restrictions and declared its latest Covid peak over. After recording more than 24,000 daily cases in mid-December, infections are now down to about 8000 a day, about 35 per cent off the peak some three weeks ago.

A graph showing the drop off in new daily Covid cases in South Africa after peaking in mid-December.
South Africa's Omicron wave has dropped away faster than expected. Source: OurWorldinData

Modelling carried out by researchers at Columbia University in the United States has given more credence to the idea that what is happening in South Africa will play out elsewhere.

The model predicts Omicron cases in the US will peak in the week starting January 9, The Washington Post reported.

It comes after the staggering rise in cases caught many experts by surprise, with more than half a million infections – some 562,000 cases – reported in a single day last week in the US.

"Omicron will likely be quick. It won’t be easy, but it will be quick," Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage told the paper.

At home, University of NSW epidemiologist James Wood believes the surging Omicron wave in NSW will peak "within the next one to three weeks", with hospital admissions then following.

However the peak will be uneven among different cities and regional areas, he warned.

Former Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth is among the growing number of voices optimistic that the coronavirus pandemic in Australia is about to come to an end.

In the meantime, Australians are urged to get vaccinated and get their booster shot, with 7.5 million Australians becoming eligible from Tuesday, up from about 4.1 million at the end of 2021.

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