A healthcare worker administers a booster dose to a woman.
Australia battled record cases and hospitalisation rates during the initial Omicron wave, but they have steadied over the past six weeks. Most states have been easing social distancing rules, with mask requirements being rolled back at indoor venues and businesses asking staff to return to offices.
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But daily infections could likely double in the next four to six weeks as the new sub-variant looks set to become the dominant strain, New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard told broadcaster ABC on Monday, leaving "more people in hospital and more people possibly to pass away sadly."
Around 20,000 new cases were reported in Australia by midday on Monday with two states due to report later, while four deaths were registered. More than 3.1 million cases and 5,590 deaths have been recorded since the pandemic began.
COVID-19 vaccine booster shots could unleash a new wave of infections. File photo
According to official data, just over 57% of people above the age of 16 have received a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in New South Wales, home to a third of Australia's 25 million people, trailing the national average of 65%. Around 95% have received two doses.
"There is a degree of confusion," Hazzard said, admitting there was "a big problem" with people coming forward to get their boosters. More than two million people in the state — with a total population of eight million — are currently eligible for their booster dose but have still to get the shot.
The World Health Organization, based on initial data, said last month that the BA.2 variant appears to be more transmissible than the original BA.1 sub-variant.
Health experts and epidemiologists have asked authorities to consider reintroducing some restrictions, including making masks mandatory in supermarkets and other indoor venues.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the weekend said the nation's political leaders want to move to a new phase of living with COVID-19 as though it were the common flu.
The figure has grown since late June, as the BA.4 and BA.5 strains became dominant since they can evade immune protection, whether from vaccination or prior infection, while some experts say the latter can be as infectious as measles.
New South Wales (NSW) said that from Oct. 16 venues that offer outdoor dining will be allowed to have double the number of patrons outside. NSW previously required such venues to ensure four square metres (13 square feet) for each patron.
The state of Victoria reported 322 new infections and 19 new deaths on Monday, with 14 of the deaths connected to outbreaks at aged-care facilities.
Blasts at a Soviet-era dam in the Russian controlled part of southern Ukraine on Tuesday unleashed floodwaters across the war zone, according to both Ukrainian and Russian forces who blamed each other for blowing-up the dam.
Nearly 13,400 people were forced to evacuate as water consumed hundreds of homes around the country, turning some streets into raging rivers of brown water, according to Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency.
Sheikh Hamdan said on Twitter, "We extend our sincere condolences and sympathy to the family, relatives, companions and readers of Khalid Al Qashtini, the Iraqi journalist and writer, and the owner of the creative pen, who enriched our Arab world with his publications. With his departure, the Arab media loses a symbol of creativity.”