Hundreds of patients counted in NSW’s daily Covid hospitalisation tally are not in hospital because of the virus, with some simply testing positive in routine checks while being admitted for broken bones or labour pains.
The revelation comes amid warnings infections in Victoria and NSW could soar to up to 100,000 daily cases within weeks if current trends continue.
Victoria recorded 7,172 cases on Sunday – jumping from 1,980 just seven days ago – and with infection numbers doubling every four days this could easily reach 100,000 by the end of January.
Over in NSW, which saw more than 18,000 new cases for a third consecutive day and has also been predicted to reach six figures, hospital admissions have topped 1,000.
But data shows as many as 50 per cent of ‘Covid patients’ in the state’s hospitals were actually admitted for other reasons – such as a broken leg, labour pains or even mental health issues – and later tested positive to the virus during routine tests.
There are fears Victoria and NSW could record up to 100,000 cases a day within the next four weeks (pictured, masked shoppers in Melbourne)
Victoria recorded 7,172 new cases on Sunday, a day after the state rang in 2022 with a record daily total (pictured New Year’s Eve revellers in Melbourne)
AUSTRALIA’S NEW COVID RULES
Who should get a PCR test? Anyone who has symptoms or who has got a positive rapid antigen test
New definition of close contact: Someone who has spent at least four hours in a household or a care facility with a positive case. Workplaces do not count.
New isolation period: Positive people and close contacts must isolate for seven days or 10 in SA. This is regardless of whether the close contacts test negative or not
Timing: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT implemented the new rules on New Year’s Eve.
Tasmania followed on January 1 while the Northern Territory and Western Australia will not adopt the scheme until they get more Covid cases in the weeks ahead.
As of Sunday morning, there were 1,066 people with Covid in hospital in NSW, with 83 in ICU.
Brad Hazzard has admitted that over two days during the week, up to half of those cases were in hospital for something else entirely – raising questions about how hospitalisation figures are reported.
‘A reasonable proportion of cases being classified as Covid hospitalisations are actually people with other reasons for admission,’ NSW health minister Brad Hazzard said.
‘Heart attacks, births, falls, none of that stops just because there is Covid. They come into hospital, they have a swab taken and it confirms Covid.
‘This shows us its out in the community, but we aren’t necessarily seeing that as the primary reason for all of the admissions.’
NSW hospitalisations of Covid cases reached four digits for the first time since October (pictured, ICU staff at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital) – but it has emerged not all the patients are in hospital for Covid-related reasons
COVID HOSPITAL RATES IN AUSTRALIA
South Australia: 82
Northern Territory: 21
Western Australia: 0
The most ever recorded in NSW hospitals was 1,268 on September 21.
While Mr Hazzard admitted hospitals are under increasing strain, preliminary analysis shows that Omicron so far has proved to be a much milder illness for many.
The 1,066 patients in hospital are among 124,624 active Covid across the state.
On September 6, there were 1,071 hospitalisations from 29,253 cases, including 177 cases in ICU, more than double of the 83 reported on Sunday.
The revelation could provide some comfort to citizens in both NSW and Victoria who are watching daily Covid cases explode and hospital admissions creep up.
Melbourne University head of population and global health Nancy Baxter believes the southern state could see 100,000 cases by the end of January if current trends persist.
‘We are likely to get to the point – and are already starting to get to the point – where there are tents in front of emergency departments,’ she told the Herald Sun.
It’s estimated around 70 per cent of Victoria’s daily infections are of the Omicron variant as the state continues to also battle the more ferocious Delta variant.
Government data of NSW cases in hospital has revealed many admissions were for non-related Covid illnesses and conditions such as broken limbs and labour pains
Queenslanders have also been put on alert with face masks reimposed in all indoor settings (pictured, a Gold Coast shopper)
Hospitalisations are also on the rise in Victoria with 472 cases currently admitted.
However, only 52 are in ICU compared to 83 just before the new Omicron variant hit Australia’s shores.
Testing clinics are also under enormous strain as frustrated Melburnians face lengthy delays to be swabbed and wait up to four days to get their results.
Many testing centres across Melbourne closed within an hour of opening on Sunday due to the city’s heatwave.
Professor Adrian Esterman, the chair of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia, holds similar fears for NSW.
Based on current trends of daily case numbers, Victoria could soon overtake NSW in terms of daily case numbers (pictured, New Year’s Eve revellers at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Bowl)
‘In four days time that is about 40,000 cases, and four days after that 80,000 cases, so you can see how easily it can reach 100,000 cases,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The professor called for the government should reintroduce more Covid restrictions to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed before the outbreak peaked.
‘The health system is creaking at the seams,’ he said.
‘Just suppose five per cent have it bad enough to go to hospital – that’s 1,000 patients going into the system every day.
‘How are they going to cope with that? The answer is they can’t. Something has to change.’
Australian Medical Association vice-president Chris Moy has been inundated with calls from concerned doctors and medical administrators ‘struggling’ with staff shortages as case numbers rise.
‘People look at the numbers and see the 1,066 in hospitals but the health system doesn’t just look after COVID and people are having critical surgery delayed,’ he said.
Demand at Covid testing centres across Melbourne and Sydney has soared over the Christmas-New Year period as cases continue to rise (pictured, New Year’s Day queues at Bondi)
Dr Moy told the ABC: ‘What’s happening there is that the staffing situation is becoming pretty critical.
‘I’m hearing about teams getting completely wiped out essentially because they are either contacts or they are positive.’
A NSW Health spokesperson said as of December 30, 2,510 healthcare workers were in isolation after being exposed to COVID-19.
In Queensland, 3,587 cases were reported on Sunday as restrictions were reintroduced, including mandatory mask wearing in all indoor spaces.
Elective surgery has been cancelled in the state’s hospitals as a surging number of staff are forced into isolation.
South Australia saw 2,298 cases while the Northern Territory recorded 94 new infections.
Frustrated Melburnians are facing lengthy delays to be swabbed and waiting up to four days to receive their Covid test results (pictured, a long queue of motorists at the Albert Park drive-through testing clinic)
Covid hospitalisations are on the rise in Victoria but health officials remain hopeful admissions won’t place an unprecedented strain on staff (pictured, Melbournians ringing in 2022)
NSW reported a record-breaking 22,577 new infections on Saturday, which is believed to be the result of backlogs in testing centres over the Christmas period.
One expert is hopeful the surge of Omicron cases across the state won’t place unprecedented strain on the hospital system.
‘The story of Omicron is playing in what we see as case numbers (but) we have Delta which is still most visible in hospital numbers,’ Professor Catherine Bennett said.
‘We had 83 people in ICU by mid-December before we had any Omicron.
‘Hospitalisations are probably telling us that Delta is still circulating in the community.’
Early Childhood Minister Ingrid Stitt is also encouraged by current ICU figures.
‘My understanding is that over the last two or three days, the ICU numbers have remained fairly stable and that’s a good thing,’ she said.
‘But we can’t take anything for granted.’
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