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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Damon Cronshaw

COVID cases rise in Hunter New-England health district

Dr Kerry Chant urged people to "make sure you're up to date with your vaccinations". File picture

The Hunter-New England health district has recorded a 13 per cent rise in COVID cases in a week.

The latest NSW Health figures show the district recorded 968 cases in the week to October 29, compared to 859 cases in the previous week.

Sixteen people were in hospital with COVID, none in ICU and two died. This compared to 21 in hospital, four in ICU and three deaths the previous week.

In early August, as the peak of the Omicron wave arrived, 20 COVID-19 deaths occurred in the Hunter-New England region in a week.

At the time, 166 people were in Hunter New England hospitals with COVID, with five in intensive care. About 11,000 COVID cases were notified that week by PCR or RAT tests.

University of Newcastle Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett said "there are two new Omicron subvariants that are slowly but surely taking over BA.5".

"These are very immune-evasive and driving a spike in infections," said Dr Bartlett, a virologist.

The Newcastle Herald reported last week that a third booster [fifth dose overall] for COVID may not be introduced in Australia until next year. Some have questioned why Australians can't get a fifth shot. US President Joe Biden received his fifth shot on October 22 and urged Americans to do the same.

The latest ATAGI advice remains at four doses, including two boosters. The new Moderna vaccine, which includes protection against Omicron, can be taken as part of the four doses.

NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, urged people to "make sure you're up to date with your vaccinations".

"This is your best protection, including against the latest variants," she said.

She said the protection people have from "vaccination and previous infection continues to reduce the risk of severe illness".

She also urged those eligible to have a plan to get "antivirals as soon as possible" after they contract COVID.

"I urge people to stay home if they have any cold or flu-like symptoms and get tested for COVID. Staying home and away from places where there are people at higher risk, such as hospitals and aged-care facilities, when you have COVID or any symptoms is essential. "

Nevertheless, National Cabinet agreed to end mandatory isolation requirements for COVID from October 14. The requirement for household contacts of people with COVID to isolate ended in April.

The NSW government's official advice on its website states: "You don't need to self-isolate if you test positive to COVID-19, but it is recommended you stay home and take steps to protect others".

Two national antibody studies have found that almost two-thirds of Australians - including children and adolescents - have now had the virus.

Lung Foundation Australia said this week that a survey of 2196 people found half of them experienced ongoing COVID-19 symptoms, more than four weeks after their initial infection period.

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