Almost three years after COVID-19 first reached our shores, a new wave of infections has started in Australia.
Multiple Australian health officials have issued warnings, as a new Omicron variant also gains ground overseas.
Australian Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Paul Kelly said this week there’s been an increase in COVID cases across the country, marking the start of a new wave in Australia.
Queensland’s COVID alert level will be raised from ‘green’ to ‘amber’ status tomorrow. This means people are asked (but not required) to wear masks in healthcare and indoor settings (when you can’t socially distance) and take a RAT every two days when living with someone with COVID.
Over 37,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported across Australia in the last reported week (up to 1 November).
Average daily cases sit at 5,300. This is considered an underestimate, as some Australian states no longer require a positive RAT to be registered.
The new variant
Increased COVID numbers reflect the transmission of the new ‘XBB’ variant of the virus, which comes from the Omicron strain.
XBB has been detected in 35 countries, and carries a higher reinfection risk than other Omicron sublineages, according to the World Health Organisation. It has shown a higher reinfection risk than previous variants, but no substantial differences in severity.
Two different variants originating from Omicron, the BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, have started to spread overseas, including in North America and Europe.
The European Union’s Disease Prevention and Control Centre has forecast 50% of total COVID cases to be from BQ.1 or BQ.1.1 by next week, and 80% by the start of 2023.
Kelly said the Australian Government is “closely monitoring” overseas transmission.