In the face of the extremely contagious BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus strain, Australian authorities warned on Monday that the sluggish delivery of Covid-19 vaccine booster doses could unleash a fresh wave of illnesses.
During the initial Omicron wave, Australia saw record cases and hospitalisation rates, but these have levelled out in the last six weeks. Most states have relaxed social distancing restrictions, such as removing mask requirements at indoor venues and requiring employees to return to their offices.
Daily infections, however, are expected to increase in the next four to six weeks as the new sub-variant becomes the dominant strain, according to New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard, who said on Monday that “more people will be in hospital and more people will regrettably ultimately away.”
By midday on Monday, some 20,000 new cases had been reported in Australia, with two states expected to report later, and four deaths had been recorded. Since the outbreak, there have been over 3.1 million illnesses and 5,590 deaths.
According to official data, little over 57 percent of adults over the age of 16 in New South Wales, which is home to a third of Australia’s 25 million inhabitants, had gotten a third dosage of the Covid-19 vaccination, lagging behind the national average of 65 percent. Approximately 95% of people have received two doses.
“There’s some ambiguity,” Hazzard admitted, adding that people coming forward to receive their boosters was “a significant concern.” More than two million people in the state, which has an eight-million-strong population, are currently eligible for a booster dose but have yet to receive it.
According to preliminary evidence, the BA.2 variant appears to be more transmissible than the original BA.1 sub-variant, according to the World Health Organization.
Authorities have been requested by health experts and epidemiologists to consider restoring some restrictions, such as making masks necessary in supermarkets and other indoor places.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated over the weekend that the country’s political leaders want to enter a new phase of dealing with Covid-19 as if it were a regular illness.