Australia’s healthcare facilities have been facing increasing pressure as the country registered record levels of COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations. The spread of the omicron variant has resulted in a spike in daily infections and has pushed Australia’s total tally beyond 500,000 cases.

New South Wales– Australia’s most populated state– has been one of the worst impacted states, recording 23,131 new cases. The previous record– 22,577 cases– for the state was set on New Year’s Day. 

There were 1,344 people in hospitals, up 140 on the previous day and 78 more than the record previously set in late September. The new cases were detected from 83,376 tests, a positivity rate of 28%, according to reports from Associated Press.

Victoria followed suit as it recorded 14,020 cases on Tuesday, eclipsing the record of 8,577 set on Monday. There were 516 people in hospitals, including 108 in intensive care.

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New South Wales Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant on Monday urged people not to seek hospital treatment unless absolutely necessary.

“It is important that we all play our part in not placing an unnecessary burden on the health system,” she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday rejected calls for the federal government to make rapid antigen tests free, in part to relieve pressure on PCR testing centers, according to reports from Associated Press.

PM Morrison also reportedly rejected the idea of imposing federal lockdowns across the country and left the decision on state authorities, saying that he relied on people’s “commonsense behavioral measures.”

Australia’s New South Wales reimposed a masking mandate after the state recorded a major surge in COVID-19 infections. Premier Dominic Perrottet said in a statement, “We have always said as we have moved through this that we will monitor the situation and the evidence in front of us.”