COVID cases have dropped significantly around the world, with southeast Asia experiencing the biggest fall, but Russia having the largest increase, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Worldwide coronavirus cases decreased 19 per cent last week to 16 million while the number of deaths remained stable at 75,000, the latest numbers show.
The Western Pacific was the only region to report a rise in new weekly cases, an increase of about 19 per cent.
The biggest rise was in Russia, with cases there and elsewhere in Eastern Europe doubling in recent weeks driven by a surge in the Omicron variant.
Southeast Asia reported a decrease of about 37 per cent, the biggest drop globally.
Among the more than 400,000 COVID-19 virus sequences uploaded to the world’s biggest virus database in the last week, more than 98 peer cent were Omicron.
Health officials noted that Omicron was causing a milder disease in countries with high vaccination rates where hospitalisation and death rates have not increased substantially.
Possibility of five jab doses
As Australia’s triple-vaccination rate nears 60 per cent, ATAGI has not ruled out the possibility of needing four or five doses to be considered “up to date”.
ATAGI chair Nigel Crawford told Senate Estimates Committee on Wednesday the regulator would continue to monitor data from countries administering four doses.
Asked by Liberal senator Alex Antic if he could assure Australians they would not be required to get four or even five doses, Professor Crawford could offer no such guarantee.
“Countries like Israel have already recommended a fourth dose and we need to look at that international data and see the impact, and what the new variant vaccines look like,” he said.
“ATAGI is constantly reviewing the evidence … that advice may change over time. It is a possibility but there’s no current recommendation to that effect.”
Professor Crawford told the hearing some immunocompromised patients are already recommended four vaccine doses.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced last week three doses are now required to be considered up to date.
Paramedics are joining nurses and midwives in industrial action across NSW this week as they lobby for better conditions and the “resources to do our jobs”.
From Wednesday midnight, paramedics will refuse to move from their stations to fill gaps in rosters.
The Australian Paramedics Association President Chris Kastelan says the action on Thursday should come as no surprise to the premier or his government.
“We’ve been telling them for years that we’re fatigued, too thinly resourced, and at risk of burning out,” he said.
“We’re asking for the resourcing we need to properly do our jobs, and a wage to reflect the skill and professionalism we bring to the role.”
The union wants 1500 more paramedics on the road, a pandemic payment and a pay rise of more than 2.5 per cent.
It also is seeking a large investment in specialist paramedics and referral networks to improve services.
It comes after thousands of nurses rallied outside NSW Parliament on Tuesday, as well as 25 locations around the state and the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association says members support of taking further action.
Mr Kastelan said paramedics have “been asked to dig deeper, work longer, and sacrifice more than before”.
“For two years, we’ve been doing the impossible, and we’ve been doing it with grit and fortitude to show up for our communities.
“But something has to give.
“If the government refuse to act on resourcing and pay, they will find themselves facing down a mass exodus of qualified, experienced clinicians.”