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Virus Cases Surge in Biggest Australia State as Rules Eased

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 18/12/2021 Georgina Mckay

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s most-populous state reported a record 2,482 Covid-19 coronavirus cases Saturday, a day after easing international arrival rules for vaccinated travelers. 

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The infections in New South Wales are the highest daily caseload for any Australian jurisdiction since the beginning of the pandemic. The omicron variant likely accounts for the majority of the latest cases and people should get booster shots as soon as they’re eligible, NSW Health said in a statement. 

Still, in a state of more than 8 million people, only 206 people are hospitalized with Covid-19. Twenty-six are in intensive care and one death was recorded. The vaccination rate for New South Wales is almost 95% of those aged 16 and over.

Covid-19 Test Centers in Sydney as Cases Surge in NSW © Bloomberg Covid-19 Test Centers in Sydney as Cases Surge in NSW

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday that living with the virus is not about case numbers, what matters is hospitalizations, ICU admissions and the number of people on ventilators.

“We’ve been planning for this. We planned to live with the virus,” Morrison said at a press conference on the island state of Tasmania. “We didn’t plan to remain shut in.” 

New South Wales on Friday eased rules for international travelers and aircrew arriving in Sydney. They will no longer need to isolate for 72 hours and will only have to test negative after arrival, the state government said in a press release

At least 100 recent high school graduates celebrating the end of the year in Byron Bay have been ordered to isolate after a virus case was detected, Nine News reported late Friday. The students have been banned from entering the popular beach town and are only allowed to leave a locked-down camping ground if they are going home. 

The neighboring state of Victoria, meanwhile, is also scrapping isolation requirements for international arrivals, after reporting 1,504 new infections and seven deaths on Saturday. Some 384 people were hospitalized, with 84 in intensive care.

South Australia reported 73 infections, the highest daily caseload recorded in the state, while Queensland detected 31, after the state relaxed its hard border almost a week ago.

(Adds case numbers in other states in last paragraph.)

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