Empty shelves of dairy products are seen at a supermarket in Sydney, on Wednesday. AP
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, made the reporting of rapid antigen test results mandatory on Wednesday as it experienced its deadliest day of the pandemic with 21 deaths.
State Premier Dominic Perrottet said residents who failed to register a positive rapid antigen test would face a fine of up to 1,000 Australian dollars (US$721) starting next week.
Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic; with surging Omicron infections leading to staff shortages that have disrupted supply chains and hampered the economy's recovery.
Traffic marshalls direct cars at a drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach, Sydney. File/AP
Australian businesses are grappling with the growing toll of workers out sick or ordered to isolate for being close contacts. But the virus is also scaring customers away from airlines, entertainment and hospitality sectors, already battered by several lockdowns over the past two years.
"Essentially (small businesses) are in a lockdown ... there is little support out there to help them keep their doors open," Alexi Boyd, head of the Council of Small Business Organisations, told broadcaster ABC on Wednesday.
Perrottet said the registration process was simple and would help health officials provide more support to people with underlying health conditions.
The 21 deaths reported in New South Wales on Wednesday topped the previous record of 18 set on Monday. The state saw 34,759 new COVID-19 cases and 2,242 hospitalizations, including 175 patients in intensive care.
New pandemic orders coming into force in Victoria on Wednesday.
Victoria state, whose capital Melbourne is hosting the Australian Open starting next week, also reported 21 deaths Wednesday along with 40,127 new cases as the state government announced that 1,000 first-year healthcare students and retired nurses would be recruited as vaccinators to meet rising demand for booster shots.
Deputy Premier James Merlino said the state’s healthcare system is strained, with around 6,600 workers off duty after testing positive or coming into close contact with a positive case.
New pandemic orders coming into force in Victoria on Wednesday make booster shots mandatory for critical workers in various fields including health care, disability care, aged care, emergency services, correctional facilities, hotel quarantine and food distribution.
Workers in food and beverage manufacturing, distribution and packing will be allowed to continue working after coming into close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.
Other than in Victoria, which accounts for over 80% of the country's COVID-19 deaths due to a second wave of infections, Australia has large avoided the high casualty numbers of many nations with about 24,500 infections and 485 deaths.
Health officials in Germany’s Munich city and Australia's state Sydney have confirmed on Sunday that two arrivals (both the countries) from southern Africa over the weekend had tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The Ministry stressed in a statement on Tuesday that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.
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