STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT. Canberra. Australia recorded a record number of patients from COVID-19 hospitalized on Monday, reaching 5.450 according to official figures, as the spread of the new highly contagious Omicron sub-variant weighed on the national health care system.
The figure has increased since late June, as the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants become dominant, as they can evade immune protection, either from vaccination or previous infection, while some experts say the latter can be as contagious as measles.
The number of those hospitalized is the highest since the emergence of the coronavirus, surpassing January’s high of 5.390 during the first wave of Omicron infections. The daily death toll also rose, surpassing 100 on Saturday for the first time.
More than 1.000 nursing homes have experienced the outbreak, the government said, as the elderly are mostly affected.
With some elderly care centers battling staff shortages, defense personnel support at the facilities will be extended until the end of September, Defense Secretary Richard Marles said.
“It is an extreme measure and it is appropriate to describe it that way,” he told ABC television.
“Given the number of outbreaks we are currently experiencing, this is the right thing to do.”
It is known that many frontline workers at hospitals are either sick or in isolation, exacerbating the health care crisis.
During the harsh winter with COVID-19 and the flu virus circulating, authorities have recommended the use of masks indoors and urgent booster doses of vaccines, while telling businesses to allow work from home.
Australia, one of the countries most vaccinated against COVID-19, has given two doses to about 95 percent of those over the age of 16, although only about 71 percent have had a booster shot.
However, its tally of around 9.13 million infections and 11.181 deaths is lower than many other developed countries.