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Australia’s worst-hit state says hospitalizations for COVID-19 could level off next week

Australia's worst-hit state says hospitalizations for COVID-19 could level off next week

A nurse prepares to test patients for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a clinic at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia, May 12, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

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SYDNEY, Jan. 14 (Reuters) – The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales could stabilize next week, a top health official said Friday as the state suffered a record number of deaths from the virus for its third day .

Pressure on hospitals is likely to continue “in the coming weeks,” said Susan Pearce, deputy health secretary, although the number of hospital admissions tracked better than the best-case scenario in a official models a week ago.

“That’s nice, but clearly that plateauing is still at a relatively high level of COVID patients in our hospitals and in our[intensive care]care,” Pearce told a media briefing in Sydney, the state capital.

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The surge in cases fueled by the Omicron variant has put pressure on hospitals, struggling with record admissions, and other sectors of the economy.

As staff shortages begin to disrupt supply chainsauthorities have relaxed quarantine rules to allow thousands of close contacts of cases to return to work in the transportation and freight industry if they are asymptomatic, an extension of exemptions previously applied to food production personnel.

But this has led to fears that workers will be placed in riskier environments.

“Essential workers are being forced to put themselves at risk to keep food on the shelves, stock medicines, the lights and water and keep this country open for business,” Australian union secretary Sally McManus said in a statement. statement.

Australia has successfully contained coronavirus outbreaks for most of the pandemic, but is now in the throes of a wave driven by the Omicron variant following the easing of restrictions as vaccinations became rife.

Of the nearly 1.4 million infections recorded in Australia since the start of the pandemic, about 1.2 million have been diagnosed in the past four weeks.

Hardest-hit New South Wales reported more than 63,000 new infections on Friday, while neighboring Victoria reported about 35,000.

Australia reported 56 deaths on Friday afternoon, 29 of them in New South Wales, the highest COVID-19 toll on record.

Other parts of Australia, which were largely virus-free until early December, also have record numbers of cases. A month ago, Queensland reported a day of four new cases; on Friday, it registered 23,630, a state record.

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Reporting by Renju Jose Editing by Robert Birsel

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