Omicron Wave Surges in Australia
By Phil Mercer January 14, 2022
New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, has reported the most COVID-19 deaths in a single day since the start of the pandemic as a wave of omicron variant infections continues. However, the situation in Western Australia state is markedly different
Health authorities in New South Wales Wednesday reported Friday the deaths of 29 people with COVID-19. It is the state's deadliest day since the pandemic began
In New South Wales, where many disease-control restrictions have been lifted and more than 90% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated; government data has shown there are more than 337,000 active coronavirus cases.
In Western Australia, where the state government has imposed some of Australia's strictest internal border controls, there are just over 100 active cases.
Travelers are not allowed into Western Australia from so-called "medium, high or extreme risk jurisdictions" without official permission. Those who are allowed in are subject to strict quarantine regulations.
Western Australia has a population of about 2.6 million people and strict COVID-19 border measures have been popular.
Last year, state Premier Mark McGowan celebrated a landslide election win analysts said was the result of his coronavirus strategy.
Starting January 31, West Australians will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter bars, cafes, and restaurants, and to visit hospitals.
McGowan says the tough rules are necessary.
"We know that unvaccinated people are well and truly, enormously, overrepresented when it comes to cases, serious illness, hospitalization, intensive care presentations and death," McGowan said. "Far too many resources are being used over east to care for individuals who would not take the basic steps to care for themselves. If you for some reason have not had your first dose yet, my advice would be to make a booking today. Otherwise, life is about to get very difficult for you."
Epidemiologist and World Health Organization adviser Mary-Louise McLaws, from the University of New South Wales, says she believes Western Australia's strict measures have helped keep case numbers low.
"It is very rare, and they have been enjoying it, not having to live with it," McLaws said. "So, I think they basically support the premier greatly."
McLaws says the state government's approach in Western Australia has gone down well.
"Certainly, it is very, very popular because they basically have not had any problems in Western Australia. I have been looking at the data and it is very low-risk in Western Australia, indeed," McLaws said. "So, the active number of cases yesterday in Western Australia per 100,000 people was 3, and then you know what it was in New South Wales? Three thousand seven hundred forty-two."
Authorities in Western Australia say the state will embark on its "Safe Transition" away from tough coronavirus regulations February 5, when interstate and international travel restrictions are to ease.
For now, at least, Western Australia has avoided the wave of omicron variant cases sweeping other parts of the country.
Geographic isolation is an advantage. Perth, the Western Australian state capital, is about 3,300 kilometers from Sydney.
In Australia, the worst of the pandemic is concentrated in its most populous states in the southeast â€” New South Wales and Victoria.
Australia has recorded almost 1.2 million COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. 2,522 people have died.
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