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Australia’s COVID cases, hospitalisations hit new records

SYDNEY (AP) – New virus cases in Australia surged to record levels yesterday, increasing the strain on hospitals and testing centres across the country.

In New South Wales, Australia’s most-populous state, 23,131 new cases were reported, an increase on the record of 22,577 cases on New Year’s Day. There were 1,344 people in hospitals, up 140 on the previous day and 78 more than the record previously set in late September. The new cases were detected from 83,376 tests, a positivity rate of 28 per cent.

Victoria state reported 14,020 cases yesterday, eclipsing the record of 8,577 set on Monday. There were 516 people in hospitals, including 108 in intensive care. The numbers do not necessarily reflect the true spread of the virus as they only include the number of
recorded cases.

The new numbers, however, confirm that Australia has passed the milestone of 500,000
COVID-19 cases.

New South Wales Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant on Monday urged people not to seek hospital treatment unless absolutely necessary. “It is important that we all play our part in not placing unnecessary burden on the health system,” she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday rejected calls for the federal government to make rapid antigen tests free.

“We’re now in a stage of the pandemic where you can’t just make everything free,” Morrison said on Monday. “When someone tells you they want to make something free, someone’s always going to pay for it, and it’s going to be you.”

Testing centres were forced to close in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland again yesterday either because of staff shortages or because laboratories which process the results are at capacity despite working 24/7.

Medical staff collect COVID-19 swabs from people at a drive-though clinic in Sydney. PHOTO: AP