COVID-19 ‘challenges’ Victoria as another 61 deaths reported

Victoria has reported 61 additional deaths from COVID-19 after the chief health officer said the state was being “challenged” as it hit what may be the peak of a third Omicron wave.

A Health Department spokeswoman confirmed Saturday’s high number of recorded fatalities was not the result of any reporting delays but a higher number of deaths from the virus.

On Friday, 107 COVID-19 deaths were reported in Victoria, but the state’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, said the spike had been caused by problems with a third-party data feed that reports deaths to health authorities.

Sutton said the increasing numbers of deaths were part of an Omicron wave which presented “challenges to us collectively as a community”.

He said the average number of daily deaths over the past two weeks was about 19, which was “relatively stable, but of course that number is of great concern and is too high”.

“Having 107 deaths reported in Victoria on one day is a cause for concern and anxiety for many people,” Sutton said at a press conference on Friday

“It doesn’t matter that there are historical deaths. These are people whose lives have been lost and their families grieving by virtue of that.”

Victoria was not the only state to be hampered by delays in reporting of COVID-19 data. Queensland revealed a total of 18,678 new cases on Saturday morning, due to a backlog of PCR results being loaded into the system.

There were 8937 new virus cases recorded in Victoria on Saturday and more than 66,500 active cases of COVID-19.

The number of people with COVID-19 in Victorian hospitals reached 837 on Saturday. Thirty-eight people were in intensive care and 10 were on a ventilator.

Sutton said Victoria’s case numbers were probably at their peak for the third Omicron wave, and hospitalisation numbers were expected to plateau over the next week or two.

“[People in hospital with COVID] are at very high levels – 800 to 900 – so that’s a huge pressure on our health system,” he said.

“But hospitalisation numbers should also decrease as the case numbers come down.”

On Saturday, 127 COVID deaths were reported around the country, after 157 on Friday and 125 on Thursday.

Infectious disease expert Professor Paul Griffin said there were some promising early signs that Victoria’s infection rate would decrease, but it was premature to declare the wave over.

“I think it’s too early to be confident that we’re past the peak,” he told Nine’s Today program.

“There are still thousands of people in hospital at the moment, and still lots of healthcare staff away as well.

“We have to remember that even after we do pass this peak, this virus isn’t going away. Hopefully, we’ll see some sustained behavioural change, things like mask wearing in high-risk venues … and making sure everyone stays up to date with their vaccines.”

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