Australians are gathering for another COVID-19 Christmas as daily case records continue to tumble around the country.
Thousands of people in NSW woke to a lonely Christmas Day, with many in isolation or separated from family as a record 6288 cases were reported.
It’s a similar story in Queensland, where 765 new cases were reported, 176 higher than the state’s previous record, set only the day before.
Victoria missed out on a record on Saturday, but another 2108 people in the state have had their festive plans foiled after contracting the virus.
Some 33 cases were diagnosed in Tasmania, while the Northern Territory reported 19 cases, ten of which were interstate arrivals.
Among the positive cases is a health care worked at Darwin’s biggest hospital.
Six deaths were also reported across Australia, all in Victoria.
The country is battling its biggest, most widespread outbreak as the highly contagious Omicron variant wreaks havoc in every state and territory.
Massive testing delays
Compulsory mask-wearing is in place in most of them, as leaders try to limit the spread of the mutant variant over the festive season.
Dozens of Jetstar and Qantas domestic flights out of Sydney were cancelled on Christmas Eve as frontline staff deemed to be close contacts are having to test and isolate as the virus spreads through the city.
Meanwhile the wait to be tested and receive a result has blown out massively in several states.
Not even Western Australia, which has boasted of it’s sound pandemic management and tough border restrictions, was able to escape the chaos.
High-risk, large public events in WA have been scrapped and dancing banned except at weddings, after a backpacker tested positive on Thursday.
Five additional cases were recorded in WA on Friday, one close contact to the original case and four casual contacts who were exposed. A hostel in Perth’s south has been locked down.
As infections continue to rise the federal government announced the wait for booster shots will be reduced twice in January.
From January 4, boosters will be brought forward to four months after the second dose – down from five months currently.
Then from January 31, people can get boosters after three months.
About 7.5 million Australians will be eligible for their booster shot come January 4. This will jump to 16 million at the end of the month once the time frame is dropped to three months.
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Saturday praised Australian’s who have rolled up their sleeves for their third dose.
Two million boosters
“Many thanks to Australians for taking us well past two million boosters,” he tweeted.
Some 123,500 shots were doled out on Christmas Eve, 94,072 of them boosters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese used their Christmas messages to thank Australians for standing together and supporting each other during the pandemic.
“This pandemic continues to buffet us … (but) Christmas is a time of
Mr Albanese said Australians deserved to have a happy Christmas after a challenging two years.
“With our borders opening up again, we’re getting back together. Off the Zoom and actually back in the room with family, friends and loved ones,” he said.
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