Australia Corona Virus News

COVID updates: National cabinet to meet as testing woes continue

IMAGE: National cabinet will meet today to discuss testing requirements and close contact definitions.(ABC News: John Gunn)

Source: ABCnews

Here’s a quick wrap of what’s happening in COVID news across Australia.

You can jump to the COVID-19 stories you want to read by clicking below.

National cabinet to meet today

prime minister scott morrison adjusts his reading glasses while looking down
An emergency meeting of national cabinet is being held today. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

State and territory leaders and the federal government will meet to discuss ongoing COVID-19 restrictions today. 

The leaders are expected to discuss a consistent approach to defining who is a COVID close contact.

PM Scott Morrison wants to relax the rules so that close contact status is only given to people who have spent four hours or more with a confirmed case in a household or household-like setting, such as a residential care facility.

The meeting will also discuss testing requirements and availability as Australia moves away from its reliance on PCR tests.

New study finds Omicron variant may protect against severe infection 

A new study in South Africa has found the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may protect people against the more severe Delta strain. 

The study, led by scientists at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, is yet to be peer reviewed, but experts say the results are promising.  

The results of the study showed participants developed an antibody response to Omicron that increased 14-fold over the two weeks.

Rapid antigen test supply worries

As COVID-19 case numbers soar, the tests are selling out in some parts of the country, with warnings it could take until the middle of February for the rapid antigen tests to be widely available in Australia. 

The CEO of Pathology Technology Australia Dean Whiting says with global demand so high, it will take some time to get enough tests into the country.

“It will take four to six weeks to get the sufficient supplies into Australia, and from that time we should be able to have a continuous supply of rapid antigen tests for everybody to be able to use.”

Both New South Wales and Victoria have more than 80 million on order and plan to supply them for free.Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Record numbers of COVID-19 cases and interstate travel requirements have led to a shortage of the tests across the country.

The snap meeting of national cabinet today will try to come up with some guidelines about when to use them.

NSW records 12,226 cases, one death

New South Wales has recorded 12,226 cases, an increase from Wednesday’s 11,201 cases. 

One death has been counted in the reporting period, while hospitalisations are up to 746 from 625 people, with 63 patients currently in intensive care.

Victoria records 5,137 cases, 13 deaths

Victoria has confirmed an additional 5,137 daily cases and 13 deaths taking the total number of active cases in the state to 23,833.

There are currently 395 active cases in hospital, 55 of which are in intensive care. There are 23 people on a ventilator. 

Contact tracing in Torres Strait

Contact tracing is underway in the Torres Strait with eight new cases of COVID-19 detected on Thursday Island yesterday. 

The island’s double dose vaccination rate is currently at 76 per cent for residents over the age of 12.

There has been renewed concern for Queensland’s Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities, with daily case numbers growing across the state. 

Torres Shire Mayor Vonda Malone says few people expected coronavirus would reach the region so soon.   

US sets new daily case records

The United States is smashing its daily COVID-19 infections records, two years into the pandemic.

A woman with a face mask walks past a New York city backdrop.
The United States has eclipsed its daily case records with 270,000 daily cases being reported. (AP: John Minchillo)

In January, the country was reporting 250,000 cases per day. That record has now been eclipsed, with close to 270,000 infections being tallied per day now. 

Deaths have climbed over the past two weeks from an average of 1,200 per day to 1,500, but so far, all indications suggest vaccines are preventing severe illness from the new strain. 

In Europe restrictions have changed 

  • France has mandated the wearing of masks on the streets in Paris from Friday, as case numbers soar in the capital
  • Spain is reducing its isolation period for COVID-positive cases from 10 days down to seven
  • Germany’s Health Minister says the number of new COVID-19 cases has been under-reported and is actually two to three times higher than the official figure.