Tasmania virus wave won't peak for weeks

·3-min read

Tasmania's COVID-19 wave isn't expected to peak for several weeks, as it's revealed one in 30 people in their 20s has the virus.

The island state's reported daily COVID-19 cases almost doubled on Friday to 1489, taking the number of active infections to 4681.

Almost 600 positive results were also lodged with the health department between 7pm on Thursday and 11am on Friday by people who took a rapid antigen test.

Tasmania now considers RATs a diagnostic tool for the virus, following a change in protocols announced after national cabinet earlier this week.

"We are experiencing a significant wave of COVID which is expected to peak in a number of weeks," Premier Peter Gutwein told reporters.

"Case numbers will then start to come back down."

Health authorities have previously predicted a peak of up to 2000 cases a day but Mr Gutwein said the figure would well and truly surpass that.

Public Health Director Mark Veitch said infection rates were "particularly high" among younger Tasmanians.

"At the moment one in thirty 20-year-olds is an active case of COVID. As I've said before, that probably represents an underestimate of the number of people," he said.

Three active cases are being treated in hospital specifically for COVID-19 symptoms, while a further five people are in hospital for unrelated conditions.

"In Tasmania at the moment we're seeing a particularly spiky wave of Omicron because it is spreading very quickly," Dr Veitch said.

"And has spread very quickly amongst very mobile and very socially active 20-year-olds."

Tasmania had no virus cases when it reopened to mainland hotspots on December 15.

The state government is handing out free RATs at several locations to people with symptoms and close contacts.

People are asked to report positive results via the public health hotline or coronavirus website to access health services.

PCR drive-through testing, which has experienced unprecedented demand, will continue at current capacity.

"We realise that with large numbers of mostly mild infections, it's impossible to run everybody who potentially has COVID through a PCR-based test process," Dr Veitch said.

Mr Gutwein said two million RATs would arrive by January 14 and some three million in the weeks following.

Seventy-nine cases are being managed at community clinics, while 350 are using the COVID-at-home care method.

Around 20,000 people are currently isolating statewide as a result of being a close contact of a positive case.

An outbreak on remote King Island, which has a population of 1600 people, has grown to more than 80 cases.

Several thousand RATs have been flown to the island, with public health officials urging people not to travel there unless absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Tasmania has suspended jury trials until at least March 15 due to the prevalence of cases in the community.

Chief Justice Alan Blow said the risk of exposing jurors and others to the virus is "unacceptable" and trials would likely have to be aborted due to positive cases and isolation requirements.

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