The federal government has received no advice on tightening its COVID-19 mandates, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says, as evasive new Omicron variants are causing an increase in cases.
More than 37,000 new infections and 77 deaths were reported across Australia on Saturday as BA.4 and BA.5 overtake BA.2 as the dominant strains.
Nationally, nearly 42,000 cases and 35 fatalities were announced Friday, the third more than 40,000 days in a row.
The number of Australians hospitalized with the virus is over 4,000, up from more than 1,000 in the past two weeks.
Mr Albanian said restrictions, if they need to be revised or reintroduced, will be examined by individual states and territories.
However, the federal government will move forward on Monday with the issue of access to vaccines.
“It is recommended that people over 50 get their extra booster shot,” he told reporters in Canberra on Saturday.
“I myself am striving for an extra booster. Folks, if they qualify, they should. It minimizes the impact and people should follow that health advice. People aged 30 and older are also eligible.
“The pandemic is not over yet.”
From Monday, Australians aged 30 and over will be able to receive a fourth vaccine dose or second booster.
It is recommended that there is a period of at least three months between the third and fourth dose.
Those who have COVID-19 after their third COVID-19 shot are advised to wait at least three months before getting their fourth shot.
Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said it was difficult to determine how transmissible the new Omicron variants were because of declining vaccine immunity and varying levels of previous infection.
They made everyone fair to infection or reinfection, but hospitalizations were unlikely to reach the levels seen during the first Omicron wave, she said.
Preliminary research from Japan indicates that the variants can multiply more efficiently in the lungs than BA.2, and Prof. Bennett said this could lead to an increase in lower respiratory tract infections and secondary infections.
“It’s not like you’re saying this will increase our death rate, but it could be because secondary infections are more difficult to treat,” she said.
Increasing cases have led to calls from some to reintroduce indoor mask mandates in an effort to curb the handover.
However, Prof Bennett said she did not believe the wearing of mandatory masks should be reintroduced and instead wanted authorities to re-contact the COVID-wearied community with targeted public health messages.
Latest 24-hour COVID-19 data
NSW: 11,434 cases, 33 deaths, 1,894 hospitalized with 61 in ICU
Victoria: 8,776 cases, 20 deaths, 667 hospitalized with 34 in ICU
Queensland: 5,315 cases, eight deaths, 719 in hospital and 15 in intensive care
SA: 3,246 cases, four deaths, 245 in hospital, eight in ICU
WA: 5,538 cases, 11 deaths, 252 in hospital, eight in ICU
Tasmania: 1,511 cases, no deaths, 89 in hospital, two in ICU
ACT: 1120 cases, one death, 138 in hospital, five in ICU
NT: 354 cases, no deaths, 20 in hospital, one in ICU