‘Challenging weeks ahead’: Some restrictions tightened to slow Omicron spread

By Jackson Graham

January 7, 2022

Dominic Perrottet
Dominic Perrottet announced restrictions on singing and dancing on Friday. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Surging cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant are leading state and territory governments to tighten some health restrictions to slow the virus’ spread. 

The NSW government announced it would ban singing and dancing in hospitality venues and review some major events’ COVID-safe plans, while Victoria reintroduced density limits for hospitality venues on Friday. 

Victoria paused category two and three elective surgery at public and private hospitals this week and NSW will suspend category three elective surgery from Saturday until mid-February. 

NSW premier Dominic Perrottet said every variant of COVID-19 had brought different challenges, with Omicron less severe but higher case numbers placing challenges on health systems and workforces. 

“We believe the changes being made today are moderate and propitiationate,” he said of the new restrictions, set to be in place up to January 27. 

NSW Health deputy secretary Susan Pearce said the state’s data showed patients with Omicron were staying in hospital for shorter periods but caseloads put “a very significant degree of stress” on the health system. 

“People moving in, and moving out … takes a lot of work for our hardworking health staff each and every day,” Pearce said, adding one positive sign was the conversion rate of cases to hospital admissions was decreasing. 

She said the department expected the peak of the virus to occur during the third or last week of January. “We have got some challenging weeks ahead of us,” Pearce said. 

Victoria became the first mainland state on Friday to mandate that people who test positive for the virus with a rapid antigen test record the result online or by phone. 

Queensland is considering options for curbing elective surgery, but chief health officer John Gerrard said he had not given advice to the government to reimpose density limits based on views from a range of epidemiologists. 

“We are not going to stop this virus, and a minor change like imposing a density limit like one person per two square metres I think the evidence suggests that it’s not going to have a major impact on the virus but it would have a major impact on the greater society,” Gerrard said. 

Gerrard said despite substantial numbers of COVID-positive cases there were small numbers of patients in intensive care – 14 people across the state and one patient on a ventilator. 

He said the bulk of cases of COVID-19 were in people aged between 20 and 30 years old. 

But the numbers of people in general wards increased from 284 to 313 on Thursday. 

“That’s where our projects suggest we are going to see the biggest pressures in the coming weeks, as we head toward the end of January, the beginning of February,” Gerrard said. 

“We are expecting very substantial numbers of that intermediate group of patients who might require a relatively short stay in hospital … there is a clear shift from the very severe to the meidum severe-type patient that we’re going to be seeing.” 

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