One of Australia’s best Covid models has thrown her support behind lightweight isolation and rules of close contact, despite predicting that Omicron cases will rise to ‘very high’ levels.
Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute, said on Friday that the changes most Australian states have made to reduce isolation periods to seven days and limit the definition of close contacts were ‘certainly’ certain.
In an interview with the Today show, Professor Lewin said that while the number of cases is set to increase, evidence from around the world suggests that hospitals will not be overwhelmed.
Her comments came as NSW reported a record 21,151 cases and Victoria 5,919 infections, with Queensland registering 3,118.
However, the number of hospital admissions and intensive care units remained stable in the southern states, and only one person is on intensive care in Queensland.
“It is certainly safe to relax on these measures, as we have done given what we are now learning about Omicron,” Professor Lewin said.
‘The predictions are that we will see very, very high numbers of cases. But what we hope, and based on what we see around the world, is that it will not lead to large numbers of admissions. ‘
Her remarks came as shock jocker Ray Hadley slammed the NSW government for not taking a more ‘measured’ approach to the pandemic.
Doherty Institute director has thrown his support behind easing restrictions despite predicting Omicron cases will rise to ‘very high’ levels
Giant cows have formed outside the Bondi drive-thru test clinic as the number of cases continued to rise in NSW on Friday
A doctor runs at St Ives drive-thru clinic while drivers wait in line after NSW reported a pandemic record of 21,151 cases on Friday
Drivers have turned out in droves despite changes in test requirements that only require close contacts that show symptoms to get a PCR test
Hadley did not hold back when he called in to 2GB on Thursday to discuss Prime Minister Dominic Perrotte’s bold decision to drop mask and QR codes.
Hadley told co-host Chris O’Keefe that he almost ‘fell out of his chair’ when the premiere announced plans to ease further rules following an emergency cabinet meeting, and later insisted he had not regretted the government’s handling of the outbreak despite Christmas chaos that ensued.
“We all make mistakes, especially under pressure,” the radio host said.
“And to say yesterday that he would not do anything different means that there is an arrogance of touch to this premiere that is almost breathtaking.”
Prof Lewin said that ‘the brakes can not be released completely’ in terms of Covid restrictions.
She warned that some protective measures still needed to be enforced – such as wearing a mask.
However, she pointed out that the Omicron strain was less severe than other variants, such as Delta, and would lead to fewer hospital admissions.
Some recently reintroduced rules are already on the hook. NSW Deputy Prime Minister Paul O’Toole said today that QR codes will once again be scrapped for events, hospitality and retail locations in late January as the state moves to the ‘next phase’ of the pandemic.
Prof Lewin’s Doherty Institute has repeatedly given Covid-19 modeling to the National Cabinet as to when the country can safely open up.
The institute’s latest modeling – leaked earlier this month – claimed that Australia could register as many as 200,000 cases a day at the end of January, which was used by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a ‘worst case scenario’.
As part of the predicted 200,000 cases a day, researchers predicted that hospitalizations could hit 4,000 a day – which would put a heavy strain on the medical system.
The institute claimed that without making to medium-sized restrictions imposed, including restrictions on visitors and density of pubs, cafes and restaurants, the country could face millions of Covid cases within a few weeks.
“There will be some hospitalization,” Professor Lewin said. “So we can not take the brakes off completely here, which means it’s important to still wear masks when you’re out.”
‘Therefore, it is important that everyone who is eligible for boosters gets them now, after four months.
In an interview with Today Show, Professor Lewin said that while case numbers are set to rise, evidence from around the world suggests that hospitals will not be overwhelmed
A driver was ironed by a health worker at a Covid-19 test clinic in Brisbane on Friday
Drivers stand in line at a test clinic in Brisbane, while Omicron continues to run across the country
Large queues have formed around Sydney with a number of cars waiting outside St Ives drive-thru
Drivers are waiting in long queues to be tested at the Bondi drive-thru clinic on New Year’s Eve
AUSTRALIA’S NEW COVID RULES
Who should have a PCR test? Anyone who has symptoms or who has had a positive rapid antigen test
New definition of close contact: A person who has spent at least four hours in a household or a care center with a positive case. Workplaces do not count.
New isolation period: Positive people and close contacts should isolate themselves for seven days or 10 days in SA. This is whether the close contacts test negative or not
Timing: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and ACT will implement the changes at midnight.
Tasmania will follow after January 1, while the Northern Territory and Western Australia will not adopt the scheme until they get more Covid cases in the coming weeks.
“Even though Omicron is much less serious, having a very large pool of people infected is still putting pressure on our healthcare system.”
Former Deputy Director of Health Nick Coatsworth blew up the leak of Doherty modeling, criticizing ‘selective and misleading media reporting’.
“The one who leaked the Doherty model out of context has committed a gross injustice to the Australian people,” wrote Dr. Coatsworth on Twitter last Wednesday.
Sir. Morrison has described the ‘worst-case scenario’ as ‘completely unlikely’ and urged the Aussies not to panic.
The Doherty modeling was criticized as ridiculous by the best expert in infectious diseases, Professor Peter Collignon.
“I do not know where they found this modeling, but it is not based on real world data,” he told the Daily Mail Australia.
Healthcare worker collects samples at a drive-thru clinic on Bondi Beach on New Year’s Eve
She pointed out that the Omicron strain was less severe than other variants, such as Delta, and would lead to fewer hospitalizations
‘These are assumptions that do not correlate with anything we have seen before the summer in any other country.
‘If there were 200,000 cases a day, the whole of Australia would be infected in a matter of months. It has not happened anywhere in the world. ”
Mr. Morrison told Seven News that it assumes no one is doing anything, no one is getting boosters … no one is exercising common sense.
‘We know we saw similar numbers at the start of the COVID pandemic, which was never realized. So the chief physician and I just want to assure people that that kind of number is not what we expect. These are extreme cases. ‘