Australia’s most populous state New South Wales has reported a record number of COVID-19 cases as the Omicron explosion turns holidays into chaos.
The state, home to Sydney and a third of Australia’s 25 million population, reported 6,394 new infections, up from 6,288 a day earlier.
Amid a rush for shots spurred by concern over the Omicron variant, doctors and pharmacists in New South Wales have said they are running short of vaccine doses.
“We would expect that pretty well everybody in New South Wales at some point will get omicron,” said state Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
“If we’re all going to get Omicron, the best way to face it is when we have full vaccinations including our booster,” he added.
Meanwhile, a major laboratory in the state called SydPath send false results to approximately 400 people saying they had tested negative for COVID-19 had in fact tested positive.
“An emergency response team is now investigating the cause of this mistake, which is believed to be due to human error. We sincerely apologize,” said SydPath medical director Anthony Dodds.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt had said that from January 4, the country would offer booster shots to every person aged over 18 who had their second shot four months earlier and the interval would be again reduced to three months by the end of the month.
“These dates have been set out of an abundance of caution to give Australians early continued protection,” Hunt told reporters in Canberra.
Australia has been looking to ramp up the rollout of boosters after becoming one of the world’s most-vaccinated countries against COVID-19, with more than 90% of people over the age of 16 having received two doses.
Despite record cases, the Australians hope the hospitals will not come under extreme pressure from the new strain, which they say appears to be less severe than other variants.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed never to return to lockdowns, saying Australians must now take personal responsibility for managing their health.
The number of people admitted in hospitals is rising steadily, but remains far lower than during the Delta outbreaks.
Airlines in Australia have cancelled or postponed flights due to frontline staff being forced to isolate due to possible exposures to the virus.
(With inputs from agencies)