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COVID crisis: Australia nears 10,000 deaths from virus

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Australia is on the brink of the grim milestone of 10,000 COVID-19-related deaths, with more than 7,000 fatalities in the past six months.

Australia has reported 7,677 deaths over the course of 2022, bringing the country’s total to 9,930.

There were also 909 COVID-19-related fatalities in 2020 and 1,344 in 2021.

“If we continue at this rate, we will have about 14,000 deaths from COVID this year,” Griffith University Infectious Diseases and Immunology Program Director Nigel McMillan told AAP.

“That makes COVID the number two or number three killer in the country of all causes of death.

“Is this what success looks like for Australia in controlling this virus? I would suggest no.”

He said booster uptake is not good enough in states like Queensland – the lowest in the country at about 63 percent.

The state with the highest booster uptake is Western Australia, at 83 percent, while other states and territories fall somewhere in between.

“We just seem to be comfortable with the idea that we’re phasing out vaccine mandates for all kinds of places, we’ve relaxed our mask restrictions,” he said.

“So we have very little in the way of the virus at this point in terms of (stopping) the spread of the virus.”

Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard does not want a return to mask mandates, but admits the possibility is under discussion.

“It’s something that’s still being discussed, but … we’d rather not go down that road,” Dr. Gerrard Friday at Brisbane 4BC Radio.

Mr. McMillan suggested adapting the public health system to policy, including expanding the availability of antivirals beyond people with comorbidities.

Australia is experiencing a succession of Omicron variants that have kept infection rates high, said Catherine Bennett, a professor of epidemiology at Deakin University.

However, Australia scored low in deaths per capita compared to other countries, she said.

“Whether we look at total COVID-19 deaths per case or deaths per capita, Australia ranks low along with New Zealand, Taiwan and Japan,” said Prof. Bennett.

Daily per capita death rates in Australia were comparable to those in the UK and Canada, and lower than those in France — countries that are currently in summer and reporting declines in the number of cases, she said.

“It is critical that we learn more about those who end up in hospital or do not survive their infections so that we can identify what needs to be done to prevent preventable deaths and reduce the case fatality rate.”

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