Australians admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 approached a record high on Wednesday, as officials encouraged employers to allow employees to work from home and advised people to wear masks inside and obtain booster vaccinations as soon as possible amid a severe coronavirus epidemic.

With over 300,000 cases reported in the last seven days, Australia is in the grip of a third Omicron wave caused by the highly transmissible novel subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. Authorities believe the true number is twice that, and Wednesday’s 53,850 new cases were the biggest daily total in two months.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is rejecting calls to reinstall severe anti-virus measures, such as making masks necessary inside, despite encouraging people to do so.

“The truth is that if you have mandates, you’ve got to enforce them,” Albanese told reporters on Wednesday. “Whilst there are mandates on public transport … not everyone is wearing a mask.”

Albanese said that any work-from-home arrangement must be decided jointly by employers and workers, as unions urged firms to do more for their employees.

Employers must go above and beyond the government’s pandemic leave payments by providing paid leave at full pay for employees who need to isolate, as well as free fast antigen testing, according to Australian Council of Trade Unions President Michele O’Neil.

“No worker should have to decide between putting food on the table or isolating with COVID,” O’Neil added.

Australia resumed assistance payments for casual employees who must quarantine last week. 

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, projected that the number of individuals ending up in hospitals will soon reach a record high and encouraged employers to allow more employees to work from home.

Authorities in Australia have warned that “millions” of new cases might be reported in the coming weeks.

According to official statistics, around 5,350 Australians are presently hospitalized with COVID-19, which is not far from the record 5,390 reported in January during the BA.1 epidemic. Numbers in Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia have already reached their peak since the outbreak started.

Many frontline health professionals are also unwell or isolated, putting further burden on the health system.

Masks should be made obligatory in indoor events, according to Australian physicians.

“We do not have optional seat belts or optional speed restrictions. There are many restrictions on our liberties that we tolerate because it is the right thing to do “Omar Khorshid, President of the Australian Medical Association, said radio station 2GB.

Authorities have also warned of a delay in the administration of booster doses.

So far, 95 percent of adults over the age of 16 have received two doses, contributing to Australia’s total COVID-19 cases being slightly under 9 million and fatalities being 10,884, significantly lower than in many other nations. However, only around 71% had gotten three or more doses.

Source: Reuters

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