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Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has accused the Perrottet and Morrison governments of pursuing a “let it rip” approach in opening up from the COVID-19 pandemic, saying there were now major issues with the hospital system.
NSW on Sunday recorded its deadliest day since the COVID-19 pandemic began in January 2020, with 30,062 new cases and 16 deaths. Victoria reported 44,155 cases and four deaths.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says NSW and the federal government have pursued a “let it rip” approach.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Sunday moved to calm Australians about the surge, saying it was “very heartening” that there were only 76 patients on ventilators across the country and two thirds of people in hospital were unvaccinated.
But in some of his strongest comments yet about the federal government’s strategy of opening up, Mr Albanese said “everything isn’t all okay in the health system in NSW”.
“There are major issues with the pressure on the hospital systems. And that’s a direct result of some of the attitude of the NSW government and the federal government,” he said.
“The truth is this. The ‘let it rip’ approach is tearing communities apart. That’s the truth.”
Mr Albanese appeared to be taking aim at NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet for relaxing restrictions on mask and QR code use in December, just as the Omicron variant was taking off.
The Labor leader also accused the Morrison government of creating problems because of a failure to plan ahead, saying it was too slow to order both vaccines and rapid antigen tests.
Mr Hunt said despite the significant increase in Omicron cases, which is “clearly vastly more transmissible”, the health impact is less severe. “And that’s being seen in the number of people in either ICU or in particular, those who are most still on ventilation, with the reports being from the states that up to two thirds of those in ICU remain unvaccinated,” he said.
“And so if you have not been vaccinated, please come forward to be vaccinated. It can protect you … It can reduce the risk of serious complications.”
The nation’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Michael Kidd, said Australia was still focused on preventing people from being infected, but also recommended households stock up on basic medical supplies to manage mild COVID-19 illnesses at home.
“If infected with COVID-19, many of us will have no symptoms at all. Some of us will have mild symptoms, which can be managed at home, and a very small number of us will require medical care or hospital admission,” Professor Kidd said.
“The first thing to do is to be prepared. My advice is that you make sure you have some paracetamol or ibuprofen at home in case you’re diagnosed with COVID-19. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to manage fever and aches and pains.”
Mr Perrottet last Friday denied the state’s record caseload could have been avoided if restrictions had not been eased in mid-December.
“We’ve always said we will tailor our settings to the circumstances that we face,” he said, describing the new restrictions as “proportionate and sensible” in light of NSW’s highly vaccinated population.
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