The Morrison government does not expect states and territories to reimpose COVID-19 lockdowns despite a worrying surge in infections fuelled by holiday festivities and travel.
NSW and Victoria recorded more than 3800 new cases between them on Sunday as deputy chief medical officer Sonya Bennett warned Omicron transmission had a doubling time of around two days.
She urged people to wear masks while indoors even if this wasn’t mandatory in their state or territory, stick to outdoor Christmas gatherings and limit numbers when they met up with others.
“The transmission rate alone is concerning. And if we see high numbers, that sheer number of cases is a cause for concern,” Dr Bennett told reporters.
“If we do end up with a lot of cases, regardless of severity, that’s going to clearly have an impact on both business and industry and individuals.”
But Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt did not anticipate a return to COVID-19 lockdowns.
“We’re going into summer and we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and a very different set of circumstances,” he said.
Other countries are ramping up COVID-19 restrictions and the Netherlands is reimposing a lockdown.
“We don’t see that that’s a likely situation in Australia,” Mr Hunt said when asked if he expected states to go down a similar path.
Booster jabs are key
The minister urged people to get their booster shot as soon as they were eligible, five months after a second jab.
The number of boosters delivered into arms exceeds 1.3 million, with more than 640,000 doled out in the last week.
Australia’s full vaccination rate for people aged 16 and older is sitting at 90.42 per cent. The first dose rate is nearing 94 per cent.
Infectious diseases pediatrician Robert Booy did not expect infections to fall until February following an anticipated January peak.
“There are so many simple things that are effective that could be reinstituted that won’t affect people’s lives too much,” he told the ABC.
Professor Booy wanted people to wear masks indoors and states to scale up contact tracing.
Queensland recorded 42 new infections and the Northern Territory nine as the latter weighed up extending a lockdown in the town of Tennant Creek.
Tasmania reported three new infections as it prepared to mandate masks indoors.
In South Australia, a member of the media tested positive during coverage of the second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval.