Australia has recorded an exponential growth in coronavirus cases in the past week, with New South Wales breaking its pandemic record on Wednesday. The surge triggered a meeting between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state leaders.
Morrison again rejected the idea of imposing mask mandates and lockdowns through the country and left the decision on state governments and the people of Australia, who should follow “commonsense behavioral measures.”
State and territory leaders were expected to press Morrison to reduce the gap between second vaccine doses and booster shots. The Australian Prime Minister said any decision on reducing the gap from five to four months would be made by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization.
New South Wales recorded a spike of nearly 3,000 cases of COVID in just one day this week, however, it is unclear if the surge was driven by the omicron variant as genomic sequencing is not routinely carried out there.
Australia has been battling the omicron variant of COVID-19 for about four weeks and cases have been steadily rising in populous New South Wales and Victoria states.
Victoria reported 1,503 cases on Wednesday, of which about 60 were reportedly omicron.
Morrison said Australia is taking the highly transmissible omicron strain “very seriously,” adding that “what we’re dealing with is a much greater volume of cases.”
Morrison said state and territory leaders told him that despite the increase in cases they have not yet seen any significant impact on the hospital system.
The federal government from Wednesday will pay doctors and pharmacists an additional $10 to administer booster shots, Morrison said.
“My message is to stay calm, get your booster, follow the commonsense behavioral measures as you’re going into Christmas and we look forward to that,” Morrison said.
(With AP inputs)