COVID-19 cases have dropped again in NSW but risen in Victoria to start the week.
NSW recorded 16,199 new COVID-19 cases today, down from 17,450 yesterday, continuing the steady decline.
However, hospitalisations rose slightly to 1270 from 1171, with 55 people in intensive care.
NSW also recorded three new deaths.
In Victoria, 8739 new COVID-19 cases were recorded, up from 7466 yesterday.
There were zero deaths in the state, with 252 people still in hospital and 21 in intensive care.
In Queensland, hospitalisations and cases both rose.
The state recorded 7816 new cases, up from 7738 yesterday, and 299 hospitalisations – up from 284.
No new deaths were recorded in Queensland today.
There were 1726 new COVID-19 cases in Tasmania and no deaths.
Just 27 COVID-19 patients in the state are in hospital, with none in intensive care.
In the Australian Capital Territory, 701 new cases were recorded, down from 799 yesterday, and zero deaths.
Forty-six COVID-19 patients are in hospital, including four in intensive care.
New Omicron wave already topped January peak
The new COVID-19 Omicron variant sweeping the country has already outstripped the previous wave’s January peak that saw restrictions re-imposed around the country.
Public health clinician and Conjoint Associate Professor with the University of Newcastle Dr Craig Dalton said the BA.2 sub-variant was already far more widespread than the original BA.1 variant.
“Laboratory data shows that other respiratory virus infections are either low or stable and that the Omicron BA.2 variant is rapidly replacing BA.1, hence this current surge in illness can be attributed to the increased transmissibility of the BA.2 variant,” he said.
Dr Dalton said the new peak was particularly affecting school students aged five to 17.
“This age group is experiencing rates of illness we typically see in the midst of a winter influenza epidemic,” he said.
“Just over one in every 25 school-aged children reported cough and fever last week and there were more with milder illness.
“This was expected with a return to school but has been supercharged by the BA.2 Omicron variant. It appears to be seeking out and finding every last susceptible person.”
The data was obtained through FluTracking, which uses data from members of the public to track the onset of influenza and other respiratory illnesses.
Most experts, including Dr Dalton, have said that in the long-term, COVID-19 will either disappear or, more likely, become a less deadly illness that the world lives with.
But Dr Dalton also proposed we could face a potential “black swan” event, in which this coronavirus continues to surprise and continues to produce highly virulent variants.
A “black swan” event, named after the 2007 book The Black Swan by statistician Professor Nassim Taleb, is a high-impact scenario that is too rare and unpredictable to prepare for.
“First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility,” Professor Taleb says in the book.
“Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact.’ Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.”