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Australia reports 24 more COVID-19 deaths as NSW health minister warns of ‘uptick’ in cases

Australia has reported 24 further COVID-19-related deaths, as the NSW health minister warns the state’s cases may double by the middle of next month.

There were six deaths reported in NSW on Tuesday, along with four in Victoria, 10 in Queensland, three in South Australia and one in the ACT.

NSW reported 10,689 new cases of COVID-19, up more than 1,700 from the previous day.

The health department says 1,032 people are in hospital with the virus. Of those, 38 are in intensive care and 19 are ventilated.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard says the same researchers who correctly predicted the Omicron summer surge had forecast another wave of cases, due to peak next month.

“The information is that we can expect to see an uptick, quite substantially, very soon,” he said on Tuesday, referencing unpublished data from researchers at the University of NSW.

“By the middle of April, we could be looking at double the number of cases we’ve got now,” he said.

The researchers “accurately forecast back in December that we’d be sitting at 25,000 patients a day, during January”.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard. Source: AAP

In January, the state’s COVID-19 cases peaked at 38,625, excluding the first three days, after rapid antigen test (RAT) results were included in the daily tally.

On those three days, case numbers peaked between 48,000 and 91,000.

The health minister says there is some concern the number of cases being reported is “light on” at the moment because of the use of RATs.

Acting Chief Health Officer Marianne Gale says within weeks, BA.2 will be “by far the dominant strain in NSW”.

The spread of the more transmissible sub-variant made it particularly important for people to get a COVID-19 booster vaccine, she said.

Mr Hazzard urged people to wear masks, stay home if symptomatic and maintain frequent handwashing.

Of the deaths reported in NSW on Tuesday, one person was in their 40s, one person was in their 70s, one person was in their 80s and three people were in their 90s.

The number of COVID-19-related deaths in NSW since the beginning of the pandemic is inching towards 2,000, with 1,991 fatalities so far.

Almost 96 per cent of people aged 16 and over in NSW have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 94.4 per cent have had two doses, and 57.2 per cent have had three doses.

In children, 83.5 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds have had one dose and 79.1 per cent have had two doses. In the five to 11-year-old age group, 48.4 per cent have had one dose.

Meanwhile, Victoria reported four deaths in the 24 hours to midnight on Monday, and 7,460 new cases.

The number of Victorians in hospital has dropped by one to 197. Of those, 24 are in intensive care and six are on ventilation.

There were 10 further COVID-19-related deaths reported in Queensland in the past 24 hours, along with 5,589 new cases.

The state’s health department said 246 people are in hospital with the virus. Of those, 19 are in intensive care.

Western Australia boosts free RAT rollout

Western Australia has posted 5,377 new COVID-19 infections, as more free RATs are delivered to households ahead of an expected peak in case numbers.

Active cases in WA have risen to 27,465, Premier Mark McGowan confirmed on Tuesday.

There are 112 people in the state’s hospital system with COVID-19, an increase of three from Monday’s tally, of which five patients are in intensive care.

The latest figures come as registered WA households are being sent an extra 10 RATs, after the overall program was increased by 10.5 million kits.

This will bring the total number of tests supplied to each of 650,000 registered households since the program began in February to 15.

“By providing free RATs to all Western Australians, we are able to ensure everyone is prepared for the wave of Omicron and best placed to stay safe and limit unnecessary spread of the virus,” Mr McGowan said.

“The reporting of positive RATs is starting to outweigh the reporting of positive PCR tests and the provision of these free RATs will ensure people have them on hand as they need them – for ease and convenience.”

Western Australians can also pick up free RATs at pop-up sites in public places in metropolitan and regional areas.

Some 500,000 tests will be handed out at train stations, major events, universities, TAFEs and shopping centres.

For remote communities, 74,000 tests will be distributed directly to households.

As well, every state MP will be given 1,000 tests to give to constituents.

The Omicron variant is spreading through WA after it opened its borders to travellers earlier this month.

What’s happening elsewhere?

South Australia reported three deaths in the past 24 hours, along with 2,380 new infections. The state has 129 people with the virus in hospital, including 10 in intensive care.

The ACT reported one death and 786 new cases. It has 40 people in hospital, including four in intensive care.

Tasmania posted 1,376 new infections and 14 hospitalisations, including three in intensive care.

It says seven hospital patients are being treated specifically for COVID-19.