On Wednesday, Australia experienced another spike in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, as well as long lines at testing centres, as it battled the virus’s rapid spread across most states.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison met digitally with the national cabinet — the leaders of Australia’s states and territory — to decide how to respond to practically daily records in new cases and mounting pressure on hospitals, up from 47,000 cases a day earlier.
Morrison is facing mounting pressure to make fast antigen tests available for free in order to relieve strain on PCR testing labs, several of which have had to close due to overcrowding. People who have been tested frequently have to wait a long time for findings from overburdened labs.
After the national cabinet meeting, Morrison told reporters that state premiers and first ministers were opposed to universal free tests. However, more than 6 million Australians, including elderly and those on low incomes, will be eligible for up to ten free tests every three months. Those who show symptoms or are considered close contacts can also get free tests.
Morrison added that persons who return a positive fast antigen test no longer need a PCR test to validate the result, among other efforts to relieve load on PCR testing labs.
On Wednesday, a record 35,054 new cases were reported in New South Wales, the country’s most populated state, while it awaits the arrival of 50 million quick antigen tests ordered by the state government.
Residents should only request PCR tests if absolutely necessary, according to State Premier Dominic Perrottet, who added that the introduction of quick testing kits, which is due next week, will “substantially aid.”
Victoria had a state-record 17,636 cases, while Queensland had 6,871 cases.
Because case numbers merely tally the number of cases reported, they do not necessarily indicate the true spread of the infection.
On Wednesday, there were 2,990 hospitalizations across the country, with 196 patients in intensive care. Both figures were higher than the previous day, which saw 2,684 hospitalizations and 183 patients admitted to intensive care.
Morrison stated that Australia is not alone in having rapid antigen test shortages due to supply issues caused by the global expansion of omicron. Around 200 million fast antigen tests are on their way to Australia, he added, but “stress” in the testing system would continue until they arrive.
“We’re not dealing with this on our own.” Other countries, in fact, most countries throughout the world, are struggling with similar issues,” Morrison added.