As the Omicron variant continues to wreak havoc across multiple places across the globe, Australia is one of the places hit hard with a wave with the country’s authority recording its first confirmed death from the new strain.
However, the Australian government has refrained from imposing yet another restriction as hospitalization remained low.
The reported fatally was of an 80-year-old man with underlying health conditions. As the number of cases increased, the country had to pause some parts of a staged re-opening after nearly two years of stop-start lockdowns.
Research experts believe the Omicron variant is much more transmissible but less virulent compared to previous strains.
Omicron, however, started spreading across the country as soon as restrictions were lifted on most domestic borders while also allowing Australians overseas to return without quarantine.
The authorities gave no additional details about the Omicron death, except to say that the man caught the virus at an aged care facility and died in a Sydney hospital.
“This was the first known death in New South Wales (state) linked to the Omicron variant of concern,” said NSW Health epidemiologist Christine Selvey in a video released by the government.
The fatal case was among the other six COVID reported casualties in the country recorded the previous day all of which took place in the country’s most populous states of NSW and Victoria.
These two states are homes to more than half of the country’s population.
For example, the states of NSW, Victoria, and Queensland all reported a combined 9,107 new cases as of Monday, which puts the country right on track for another peak in new infections.
There was an increase in the daily number of cases in the other five states and territories in a country of 25 million people.
“Although we are seeing increased case numbers… we are not seeing the impacts on our hospital system,” said Annastacia Palaszczuk, premier of Queensland which reported 784 new cases with four people in hospital.
With reports of six-hour wait times for COVID testing for people hoping to meet requirements for interstate holiday travel, Palaszczuk defended the tourism-friendly state for mandatory testing, saying “everyone knew when they booked a ticket that if they wanted to come here they would have to do a PCR test”.
“We need to make sure that we’re protecting (Queenslanders),” she said.
Despite the new surge, the Australian government has resisted enforcing another lockdown even though it has reinstated some restrictions on residents.
For example, on Monday, NSW has now made it compulsory to check into public venues with QR codes, while some states also brought back the mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public places.