Residents of New South Wales and Victoria must wear masks indoors again after state governments reimposed some restrictions to ease pressure on their health systems.
Early data suggests the risk of hospitalisation with Omicron is 60 to 80 per cent lower than the risk of hospitalisation with Delta.
But with New South Wales reporting a record 5715 new cases on Thursday and Victoria reporting 2005 new cases, authorities believe health systems may struggle to cope with the surge in cases without the reimposition of modest restrictions.
TND reviews the major rule changes and latest Omicron studies below.
Early data suggests Omicron less severe
On Thursday, NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said data indicates the risk of hospitalisation with Omicron is between 60 and 80 per cent lower than the risk of hospitalisation with Delta.
NSW authorities estimated the severity of the now-dominant COVID strain by combining overseas data from South Africa and the United Kingdom with emerging evidence locally.
Dr Chant said the initial findings were promising, but noted the increased transmissibility of Omicron – which now accounts for about 80 per cent of new cases in NSW – could still pose major problems for Australia’s health system.
This is because a lower hospitalisation rate could still lead to a higher overall number of people in hospital than during the Delta outbreaks if case numbers are much higher.
TND has reviewed the most up-to-date studies on the transmissibility and severity of Omicron in another article here.
Wearing masks indoors
Residents will be required to wear masks in all indoor settings outside private homes from midnight on Thursday.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the requirement would stay in place until January 27.
Victorians aged eight and above must also wear masks in all indoor settings outside private homes from 11.59pm on Thursday.
They must also wear masks when moving around at events with more than 30,000 people unless seated outdoors.
This means masks must be worn at the Boxing Day Test.
Hospitality and retail changes
From December 27 until January 27 at the earliest, hospitality venues must only accommodate one guest for every two square metres.
Over the same time frame, patrons must again use QR codes to check into hospital venues and shops.
Patrons are “strongly encouraged to stick to seated service while inside hospitality venues rather than moving around crowded venues”.
The government has also cautioned people against spending time on poorly ventilated indoor dance floors.
Free rapid antigen tests
The NSW government will provide free rapid antigen tests to NSW residents as part of a shift towards greater “personal responsibility”.
Mr Perrottet said this would reduce the lines for PCR tests and take some pressure off healthcare workers.
Working from home
NSW and Victoria
Both state governments have advised people to work from home whenever possible.