National COVID-19 case numbers are increasing for the first time since May, ahead of a possible Christmas surge.
Government data shows the number of patients accessing prescription antiviral medications to treat COVID has risen in every state and territory.
While cases are increasing, COVID-related deaths remain low.
Here’s what you need to know.
COVID in Australia
Case numbers for each state and territory are reported weekly (these numbers will eventually be updated monthly).
With daily numbers no longer being reported, demand for COVID-19 treatment is now considered a more reliable way to track infections. The most recent data shows prescription numbers for COVID treatment have been rising since the start of October.
Outbreaks in high-risk settings, like aged care facilities, have been rising steadily since September.
The EG.5 Variant
Australian data doesn’t identify the COVID variant within positive cases. However, it’s believed recent dominant strains of COVID-19 infection largely stem from the Omicron variant.
One of these has been the EG.5 (or Eris) variant, which was declared a variant of interest by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in August.
While the severity of COVID-19 hasn’t changed with EG.5, the WHO flagged concern that it could contribute to a global surge in case numbers.
Public Health Warnings
This month, Victoria and NSW are among the states that have issued health warnings amid a rise in cases. They suggested things like face masks in high-risk settings and asked people with symptoms to avoid public gatherings.
COVID-related emergency department visits have been increasing in NSW at an especially high rate among children and elderly people.
COVID-19 booster doses have more than doubled in the past month. The national daily average was 7,743 on 8 November, up from 3,769 per day on 8 October.
A study in the U.S. found that boosters successfully increased antibody levels in patients who were more vulnerable to COVID-19 than those with hybrid immunity (provided by a combination of infection and vaccination). It also found “strong evidence” that vaccination against COVID-19 provides long-lasting protection.