SYDNEY: Government officials warned on Wednesday that the country should brace itself for an increase in COVID-19 deaths in the coming weeks as record infections fueled by the Omicron outbreak overwhelmed health systems, prompting Victoria to declare a state of emergency for its hospitals.
According to Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly, “we have seen and will continue to see deaths, mostly in older people, mostly in people with other chronic diseases.” Kelly’s comments came a day after Australia experienced its deadliest day ever, with 77 people dying as a result of the virus, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Victorian state hospitals will be placed on a ‘code brown’ alert starting at noon on Wednesday, a status usually reserved for natural disasters or large-scale casualty events. Nurses have reportedly called on the government to enlist the assistance of the army amid a wave of record infections.
Hundreds of nurses from the neighbouring state of New South Wales (NSW) demonstrated in one of Sydney’s largest hospitals on Wednesday, protesting a shortage of nursing staff.
“Nurses and midwives are tired, angry, and frustrated, and they believe that the NSW government is not supporting them at all,” said Shaye Candish, president of the Nurses Union of NSW.
Despite the fact that Kelly acknowledged “challenges with nursing staff” levels, he asserted that the country’s hospital capacity was able to keep up with the increasing number of admissions.
Officials are attempting to justify their decision to live with the virus despite rising hospitalizations by pointing to a milder Omicron variant compared to previous COVID-19 strains as justification for their decision.
However, with 5,025 people admitted to hospitals as of Tuesday, the sheer number of cases has placed a strain on the system. In Australia, the figure was 759 a month ago, with the number nearly doubling in just two weeks.
By late afternoon, a total of 50 deaths had been reported between the states of New South Wales and Victoria, which together account for more than half of Australia’s 25 million people. More than 53,000 people have signed up so far, with additional states expected to report later.
Australian health officials are grappling with a record number of cases, with approximately 1.3 million cases detected in the past two weeks, despite earlier success in restricting the coronavirus’ spread.
Australian authorities have reported approximately 1.6 million infections and 2,826 deaths since the pandemic began in 2009.