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Hospitals still under COVID strain: Butler

Hospitals across the country are still under massive pressure from COVID, despite the peak of the recent Omicron wave passing.

Health Minister Mark Butler said the number of cases in hospital had been falling for several days and, by Friday, were several hundred below the high of a few weeks earlier.

“But still there are close to 5000 Australians in the hospital with COVID, that’s close to one in 12 public hospital beds, so there’s no question that our doctors, and nurses and other hospital workers are still under enormous pressure,” he told ABC radio.

Mr Butler said the peak of the Australia’s recent Omicron wave had appeared earlier than expected, although the strain on hospitals had been exacerbated by large numbers of influenza cases.

“It’s much harder in winter because hospitals get so many other cases through their doors in winter as well as flu cases,” he said.

“[COVID has] not become a seasonal virus in the way that influenza is around winter, for example.”

Mr Butler also expressed concern the take-up of third vaccine doses continued to lag, despite a large number of people getting fourth doses following an expansion of eligibility.

“We’ve been seeing more than half a million people get that fourth dose every week, but I am worried about the third dose,” he said.


The government earlier this week announced vaccines had been approved for children aged six months to five years old.

Young children who are immunocompromised or have severe illnesses will have access to the Moderna vaccine from September 5. An estimated 70,000 children will be eligible.

Mr Butler said chief health officers from across the country were also monitoring whether the isolation period for people who contracted COVID could be reduced.

However, he said he had not received any advice that the current seven-day isolation period should be reduced.

“There’s no question that people are isolating for seven days is utterly inconvenient,” he said.

“Distressing as that is, it’s an incredibly important public health measure. We know that particularly with these Omicron variants people are highly infectious over the course of those seven days.”

Meanwhile, a bidding war could erupt among state premiers vying to host a new US-style centre for disease control for Australia.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday signalled possible funding for the new centre – an election promise – in the October budget after discussing the facility with state and territory counterparts in a national cabinet meeting.

Mr Albanese would not be drawn when pressed for further details, saying to “stay tuned” for announcements in the upcoming budget.

Australia’s latest 24-hour COVID data

NSW: 12,908 cases, 29 deaths, 2224 in hospital with 63 in ICU


Victoria: 7502 cases, 34 deaths, 699 in hospital with 39 in ICU

Queensland: 4926 cases, eight deaths, 736 in hospital with eight in ICU

Tasmania: 765 cases, two deaths, 92 in hospital with two in ICU

Northern Territory: 257 cases, no deaths, 54 in hospital with one in ICU

Western Australia: 3239 cases, one death, 351 in hospital with 14 in ICU


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