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COVID-19 cases soar in Aussie state as rapid tests come into force

Aussie state

Image: File

SYDNEY, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) — Following a government mandate to log positive Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs), the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) recorded a vast record of 92,264 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

Of the new cases, 30,877 were done through traditional PCR testing and a further 61,387 were self-reported by citizens since the government opened the self-reporting system on Wednesday.

The surge in cases has been largely attributed to the Omicron variant, which has quickly outpaced PCR testing capacity across the country.

Thursday’s cases included a backlog of positive RATs from January 1. The avalanche of cases comes as the NSW government announced that self-reporting would be made mandatory and failure to do so would incur a 1,000 Australian dollars (about 700 U.S. dollars) fine.

The state also saw its deadliest day of the pandemic, reporting a further 22 deaths on Thursday. In the same period, 2,383 people are in hospital with the virus, 182 of which require intensive care.

Food shortages spurred by large numbers of workers in isolation continue to be one of the most pressing challenges faced by states across the nation.

Read more: Australian state sees deadliest day amid new wave of Omicron pandemic

Suppliers have reported worker shortages between 20 and 50 percent. Joseph Romeo, director of national supermarket chain IGA, told national broadcaster ABC that they may have to begin to close stores due to the shortages.

“If we have another big spike then it’s going to be very challenging and there might be stores that we may have to close because we can’t staff the stores to a minimum to get them operating,” Romeo said.

Workers in critical industries have received exemptions from usual COVID-19 isolation requirements this week as states scramble to bolster workforces in key industries.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Thursday that the state would expand its isolation exemptions for critical workers in education, transport and freight industry.

Victoria reported 37,169 new cases and 25 further deaths on Thursday. There are currently 953 people in hospital with the virus, 111 of which require intensive care.

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