Australia’s brutal Omicron wave has ‘definitely peaked’ with Covid-19 soon to be treated ‘like a bad flu’, according to health experts.
New South Wales recorded 15,091 cases on Monday, its lowest tally recorded so far in 2022, and a 48.9 per cent drop since the same time last week.
Experts say Victoria, the ACT and South Australia have also passed their peak while daily infections in Queensland also continue to drop.
As the World Health Organisation declared Europe is moving towards ‘a kind of pandemic endgame,’ a host of infectious disease experts believe the worst of the outbreak in Australia is also nearly over.
Even NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant, known for being cautious and fighting for tougher restrictions, says she is ‘incredibly optimistic’ about the future, exactly two years after the first Covid case was confirmed in Australia.
There’s growing optimism from experts that Australia has passed the peak of the pandemic wave and will soon treat Covid like a bad flu (pictured, Sydneysiders in Chinatown)
COVID CASES IN AUSTRALIA ON MONDAY COMPARED TO A WEEK AGO
NSW: 15,091 (down from 29,504 a week ago)
VIC: 11,695 (down from 22,429 a week ago)
QLD: 10,212 (down from 15,122 a week ago)
SA: 2,009 (down from 3,829 a week ago)
ACT: 756 (down from 1,601 a week ago)
TAS: 619 (down from 1,310 a week ago)
NT: 286 (up slightly from 284 a week ago)
WA: 13 (up from 1 a week ago)
Source: State health statistics
Former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said the virus has ‘definitely peaked’ and believes Australia is one step closer to treating Covid like a cold or influenza.
‘It’s not the end of the pandemic, but it is definitely the beginning of the end,’ Dr Coatsworth told The Daily Telegraph.
‘While we would need to do deeper serological studies to determine the actual numbers, it looks at this point like in a highly vaccinated population the fatality rate would be more like a bad seasonal flu.’
ANU professor and infectious diseases specialist Dr Peter Collignon agreed but warned Australians must remain on guard this winter.
‘For a highly vaccinated population the consequences are becoming closer to flu,’ he added.
In NSW, there’s been less demand for intensive care beds than during last year’s Delta outbreak, despite cases surging to record levels during the Omicron wave.
The highest number of patients in ICU during the latest outbreak was 217 a week ago, compared to a top of 236 during the Delta wave from a significantly smaller case load – meaning the proportion ending up in hospital is much lower.
Dr Chant said it’s now time for people to learn to live with the virus.
‘I think we need to have a sense of optimism, I’m incredibly optimistic,’ she said on Monday.
NSW recorded 15,091 cases on Monday, its lowest daily tally of infections in 2022 so far (pictured, a Covid testing site in Sydney)
‘It is pleasing that when we look at a range of measures, our assessment indicates that the spread of coronavirus is slowing, our situation is stabilising.
‘Obviously, Omicron has had an impact because of the sheer numbers of the disease and it has been severe for some, mild for most.
‘But we are going to need to live with this virus. It is not going to disappear and what we need to do is just calibrate our response.’
Other leading epidemiologists share Dr Chant’s optimism.
‘We hopefully are seeing through the other side of the climb of cases, so at least we know what we’re working with,’ Deakin University chair of epidemiology at Deakin Professor Catherine Bennett told The Australian.
But she warned there will likely be a ‘saddle curve’ of cases in the coming weeks as students return to the classroom for the first time in 2022.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant( said the Covid situation in NSW is stablising
Federal health minister Greg Hunt said infection and hospitalisation figures in several states and territories were showing promising signs.
‘We’ve seen a decrease in case numbers significantly and we’ve seen a decrease in hospitalisation numbers of over 100 in Victoria and NSW,’ he told reporters in Melbourne.
‘That will flow through to ICU numbers and ventilation, so it’s an important moment where we are seeing now clear signs this Omicron wave … has peaked.’
He announced that Novavax, the fourth Covid vaccine to be approved in Australia will be rolled out from February 21.
‘A new vaccine; the commencement of additional arrangements to support pensioners… and clear signs of the virus having reached a peak in at least four jurisdictions, and a vaccine program which is operating at record levels,’ Mr Hunt said.
Leading health experts say an endgame of the two year worldwide pandemic is in sight
On the other side of the world, World Health Organisation Europe director Hans Kluge believes worldwide immunity will take hold once the Omicron surge across the continent subsides – ‘saying the world was moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame’.
He said Omicron could likely infect 60 per cent of Europeans by March.
‘There will be for quite some weeks and months a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection, and also lowering seasonality,’ he said.
Cases are also coming down ‘rather sharply’ in some parts of the US, according to the country’s infectious diseases guru Dr Anthony Fauci.
‘Things are looking good,’ he told a ABC News talk show on Sunday.
‘I believe that you will start to see a turnaround throughout the entire country.
‘There may be a bit more pain and suffering with hospitalisations in those areas of the country that have not been fully vaccinated or have not gotten boosters.’
Dr Nick Coastworth described the decline in cases as not the end of the pandemic but’ definitely the beginning of the end’ (pictured, testing clinic in Melbourne)