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.
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.
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.
Led by cases in Victoria state — the epicentre of Australia's latest COVID-19 outbreak — Australia said it has detected 226 new infections in the past 24 hours, the lowest since July 18 when 212 cases were recorded.
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.
While addressing the ceremony shown live on Pakistani TV channels, General Bajwa expressed his gratitude for representing the Queen, terming it a "unique honour and great privilege.”
Trump's lawyers announced that they would not oppose obtaining the search warrant for his Florida residence unsealed from the public, the Justice Department said in a court filing, indicating the opening could take place shortly.
The Integrated Transport Centre (ITC), affiliated to the Department of Municipalities and Transport - Abu Dhabi, announced the opening of several roads with new signalized intersections on Al Reem Island, starting Saturday, August 13, to serve the public and enhance traffic flow and safety on the roads.