Omicron subvariant BA.2 Threat Growing, Australia Warns of New Wave of Infections

Australia’s authorities today warned that a slow COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) vaccine booster could spark a new wave of infections, threatened by the highly contagious Omicron variant subvariant BA.2.

Australia struggled with an initial wave of Omicron variants, a record number of confirmed cases and hospitalisations, but the situation has stabilized for the past six weeks. Most states have eased social distancing rules, lifted the requirement to wear masks in indoor venues, and businesses have asked employees to return to the office.

But New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard told the ABC today that with the Omicron variant subvariant BA.2 looking set to become mainstream, 4~ The daily number of new diagnoses could double in six weeks, “leading to more hospitalizations and the possibility of more grief-stricken deaths.”

As of noon on the 14th, Australia reported about 20,000 new diagnoses and four deaths from the disease, and two states reported later. Since the start of the pandemic, Australia has recorded more than 3.1 million cases and 5,590 deaths.

In New South Wales, Australia’s largest state, home to a third of Australia’s population, only 57 per cent of people over the age of 16 have received a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, trailing the national average of 65 per cent, according to official figures. As for the proportion of 2 doses of vaccine, about 95%.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in February preliminary data that the subvariant BA.2 appears to be more contagious than the original BA.1 strain.

Health experts and epidemiologists have asked authorities to consider reintroducing some restrictions, including mandatory mask wearing in supermarkets and other indoor venues.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this weekend that Australia’s political leaders wanted to enter a new page in coexistence with COVID-19 as if it were the common flu.

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