A prominent epidemiologist says it is “obvious” Australia is heading into its fifth wave of Covid.
Over the last week, 38,226 cases were reported across Australia, with an average of 5,461 cases per day.
While cases are spiking in almost every state and territory - including a 44 per cent spike in Tasmania - the seven-day rolling average of 5461 is well below the nation’s peak of more than 100,000 cases in January 2022.
University of South Australia Professor Adrian Esterman said it is already very clear a new wave is coming in South Australia, where infections are forecast to double in the next fortnight.
“It‘s pretty much clear now across the country we’re going into a fifth Omicron wave,” he told the ABC.
“We’ve seen numbers going up now for three weeks in a row.”
It comes as health authorities are also reporting an increase in cases of influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
“It’s a triple whammy at the moment,” he said.
Diagnosis rates of influenza are 100 times higher than they were last year, with more than 40,000 cases of laboratory-proven influenza so far in 2023.
Of those, more than 8173 cases were diagnosed in the first half of May alone, according to the Australian Government’s National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.
NSW reported the most cases of Covid-19 in the last seven days with 2095 people diagnosed – an 18 per cent increase on the previous week.
Australia had 38,754 cases (up 5,674) with the Reff up from 1.05 to 1.09. There were 2,344 people in hospital (up 73) and 57 in ICU (down 3). There were 128 deaths (down 40). It looks as though we are still climbing this 5th Omicron wave. pic.twitter.com/oGtf9A6ZyT
— Professor Adrian Esterman (@profesterman) May 19, 2023
However, mandatory testing and isolation rules for those with symptoms have not been in place for some time, so it is unlikely the recorded cases are reflective of the number of people in the community who have the illness.
Approximately 218,000 doses of Covid vaccine have been administered over the last 7 days adding to the more than 2.5 million adults who have received a booster dose since January.
The looming fifth wave will arrive in an entirely different landscape to the one before it, after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared earlier this month that Covid-19 no longer represents a “global health emergency”.
The global virus death rate has dropped to just over 3,500 a week in April after a peak of more than 100,000 people per week in January 2021, according to WHO data.
It is estimated the virus was the cause of almost 7 million deaths globally.