Australia anxious as schools back in full swing amidst Omicron wave

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January 30, 2022

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Thousands of Australian students return to school on Monday after a summer break, as the country remains anxious about the spread of COVID-19, which on Sunday killed at least 88 people in the country.

Although some schools reopened last week, most will do so on Monday, many requiring students to be tested twice a week.

Fuelled by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, infections have exploded in Australia since December, the beginning of summer in southern hemisphere.

There have now been 2 million COVID-19 cases there; up until December, Australia, a country of 25 million people, had counted just 400,000 since the pandemic began two years ago.

In New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, with 8 million people, more than 700 have died of COVID-19 this year. In the whole of Australia just more than 3,700 people have died during the pandemic.

“The single most important thing, and I can’t stress this enough, if we can roll out our booster program, lift that uptake of boosters,” Kerry Chant, the state’s chief health officer, said on Sunday, warning that there would be more deaths.

On Sunday, at least 88 people died of COVID-19 across Australia. The death rate has increased sharply recently but remains a fraction of what other developed countries have seen.

Australia has vaccinated more than 93% of its adult population with two doses; nearly eight million have received more than two.

Dan Andrews, the premier of Victoria state, which reported 20 deaths on Sunday, flagged that all Australians may soon need to be triple-dosed to be considered fully vaccinated.

“I think it’s only a matter of time before the relevant federal agencies confirm that this is three doses, it is not two plus a bonus,” Andrews said.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly. Editing by Gerry Doyle)