Australia has surpassed the unwanted milestone of 10,000 new COVID-19 infections in one day, spurred by high case numbers in the three southern states of New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and South Australia (SA).
NSW reported 6324 new cases while Victoria had 1999, with the two states forming the bulk of the country’s near 10,200 new infections.
The two states recorded three deaths each, with NSW registering its first known Omicron fatality.
Meanwhile, St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney admitted to two testing blunders in as many days, revealing on Monday almost 1000 people were told they were COVID-19 negative when in fact their results had not been returned.
It came a day after the hospital confirmed more than 400 people who initially received a negative result on Christmas Day were notified on Boxing Day they had tested positive.
Only some of those people are counted in the NSW tally. The rest will be included in Tuesday’s numbers, NSW Health said.
There were 784 new cases in Queensland, three-quarters of which are the Omicron variant the state’s premier said.
But Annastacia Palaszczuk said there had been no major impact on Queensland’s hospitals.
There were also a record 842 in SA, the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) highest daily tally of 189 new cases, 35 in Tasmania, 12 in the Northern Territory and one in Western Australia (WA).
WA has extended its mask mandate and restrictions on hospitality venues until Jan. 4, with Premier Mark McGowan noting the announcement would disappoint some.
Nightclubs will be closed for New Year’s Eve, as will major music festivals.
McGowan said Western Australians would still be able to enter the new year with family and friends.
“This gives us the best chance to potentially eliminate this outbreak in our community and ensure we can continue to have a relatively normal and safe holiday period,” he said.
Testing demand continues to impact queue lengths and turnaround times across the eastern states.
The number of tests processed each day in NSW has plummeted by more than 60,000 over the past four days, as testing sites and laboratories become overwhelmed.
NSW and the ACT have moved to curb testing for people who are not close contacts or do not have symptoms to try and take pressure off testing facilities.
The ACT also eased testing requirements for close contacts in isolation.
Queensland is reviewing whether some people will be able to take rapid antigen tests, instead of a PCR, to help ease demand.
But, hundreds of cars were still lined up at one north Brisbane testing site on Monday just ahead of its closing.
Of the people AAP spoke to, around half were from interstate and were required to take a PCR test. Car batteries were going flat in the line and people, including the elderly, were forced to wait for hours in hot vehicles.
SA is now asking interstate visitors to take a rapid antigen test upon arrival instead of a PCR test.
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler called for a testing regime that includes accessible and affordable rapid antigen tests to help take the pressure off testing facilities.
“With a daily toll of thousands and thousands of COVID cases and with our PCR testing systems completely overwhelmed, we need the federal government to put in place a rapid testing regime,” he said.
Further restrictions came into effect in NSW and SA on Monday to help handbrake increasing case numbers.
In NSW, hospitality venues go back to the one person per two-square metre rule and compulsory use of QR codes returns.
Meanwhile, new density limits and reductions in the number of people allowed at family gatherings have come into force in SA.