Kerry Chant warns death toll will rise after another 23 COVID-19 deaths recorded in NSW and Victoria

Dr Kerry Chant, speaking to reporters in Sydney on Monday, said: “Given the broader community transmission of COVID, I would like to flag that the number of deaths (is) likely to be high over coming days.

“But the key message is those boosters will improve the protection.

“Only one of the 17 people that died had been boosted.”

Dr Chant also reported that 95 per cent of samples taken in the past two days from a private pathology laboratory were the Omicron variant.

“We know that for the Omicron variant, having that booster is critical to upping your level of protection,” she said.

“And we know that with both variants, even though the Omicron variant is milder overall, it still will have an incredible impact on people that are elderly and those with underlying conditions.”

Never-ending lockdowns would mean COVID becomes never-ending story

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet cited the ICU numbers as he also pushed for people to get booster shots.

He said: “If we look at the numbers today, 200 people in ICU, 50 per cent of those people in ICU are unvaccinated.

“The evidence is clear – and that’s why I continue to ask people right across our state: if you haven’t received that booster shot, please go out and do it.”

Mr Perrottet also said lockdowns would be a thing of the past, otherwise the pandemic would become “never-ending”.

He said: “The best way through this pandemic is to push through.

“And what we can’t have, and I understand that it is a different approach to the last two years, but what we can’t have here in New South Wales and across the country are never-ending lockdowns. Because that will result in a pandemic that becomes a never-ending story.”

Of the newly reported cases on Monday, 17,646 were traditional PCR tests and 11,858 were the results of at-home rapid tests reported to the government.

More than 1,000 of the rapid test results were more than a week old, but newly reported through ServiceNSW.

The total number of positive results reported was 5,156 fewer than the day before.

NSW Police will on Wednesday officially begin enforcing a $1,000 fine for people who fail to report rapid results, although it remains to be seen how they will do so in practice.

Victoria has recorded 22,429 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths as authorities begin handing out millions of rapid antigen tests (RATs) to essential workers and vulnerable people.

The new infections confirmed by the health department on Monday include 12,059 from PCR tests and 10,370 from RATs.

It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 245,040, including a record 1,229 patients in hospital.

Monday’s patient number is a 115 increase on the 1,114 reported on Sunday.

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The number of people in ICU has grown by seven to 129 with 38 on ventilation, three more than the previous day.

The figures come as the state government on Sunday received three million of the 44 million RATs it ordered.

Tasmania recorded 1,037 new COVID-19 cases, adding 21 people were in hospital.

Explain inflated prices for RATs, ACCC says

Meanwhile Australia’s consumer watchdog says it is concerned about continued price gouging on RAT kits.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has analysed more than 1,800 reports of price hikes on the essential item since December 25, and is now averaging close to 150 reports a day.

Chairman Rod Sims says at the extreme end the watchdog had seen “outrageous” reports of tests costing up to $500 for two online and more than $70 per test at convenience stores, service stations and independent supermarkets.

On data available to the ACCC so far, suppliers and intermediate suppliers say wholesale prices are between $3.95 and $11.45 per test, depending on the type of test and volumes purchased.

“There are several businesses that have repeatedly come to our notice thanks to the information provided by the public,” Mr Sims said in a statement.

“We are asking those businesses to urgently explain the prices they are charging.”

Almost three-quarters of Australians say RATs should be free, while more than half believe governments have failed to adequately plan over the past two years to deal with challenges that have been thrown up by Omicron.

A survey by the Australian Institute found 72 per cent of respondents believe the federal government should provide RATs free to everyone, including two-thirds of coalition voters.

Just 16 per cent believe retailers should continue to sell them to individuals.

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