Omicron surge: Australia rules out possibility of lockdown

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that Australia must move past “government’s strong hand” and that authorities must cease closing down people’s life with Covid-19 lockdowns, as daily infections in the country reached a new epidemic high.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant has fueled the spike of Covid-19 cases over the last several days, but Morrison stressed that restricting the virus’s spread boils down to personal responsibility.

“We have to get past government’s strong hand and treat Australians like adults,” Morrison told reporters, pushing authorities to move away from a “culture of mandates” when it comes to masks and social distancing restrictions. “Lockdowns will not be reinstated. We’ll proceed with caution and responsibility as we deal with this illness.”

Australia has kept its Covid-19 numbers low, with roughly 260,000 overall cases and 2,154 deaths, because to quick lockdowns and tight social distancing restrictions. Despite the threat of the Omicron type, most of the country has been reopening in recent weeks as a result of increased inoculations.

Authorities are also seeking to speed up the distribution of booster shots, with Morrison encouraging states to reopen hundreds of vaccination centres that were shuttered when demand decreased when double-dose rates in adults over 16 years reached 80%.

Despite the Omicron variant’s rapid spread, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt noted that “just a handful” of cases ended up in hospitals. Although the number of patients admitted to hospitals has increased, it is still significantly lower than it was during the Delta wave.

On Tuesday, almost 4,600 cases were registered in Australia, surpassing the previous high of 4,100 cases reported over the weekend. New South Wales, which includes Sydney, became the first Australian state to reach 3,000 daily Covid-19 infections, while Queensland had 1,245 cases. There are fewer cases in other states.

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