Hopes have been raised that more restrictions could be eased as the Omicron wave passes its peak and cases decline, according to several epidemiologists.
Head of Monash University’s epidemiological modelling unit James Trauer revealed testing rates have stabilised while case numbers have continuously fallen over the past week – in a positive sign the outbreak was on its way out.
‘I’m pretty confident we’re on the decline now,’ Professor Trauer said.
The seven-day average for case numbers has dropped drastically in NSW and Victoria. NSW reached 47,000 during its peak on December 17, but figures have since dropped to 28,000.
Victoria peaked at 40,000 cases on January 14 with its current average dipping to 19,000.
Hopes had been raised the decline in cases would pave the way for more restrictions to ease – including the unpopular face mask mandate – however state premiers have indicated the case numbers are still too high to make any drastic changes.
The Omicron wave has passed its peak with case numbers to continue to decline in NSW and Victoria, according to epidemiologists
Head of Monash University’s epidemiological modelling unit James Trauer revealed testing rates have stabilised while case numbers have continuously declined over the past week – in a positive sign the outbreak was on its way out
Hospitalisation and death rates have remained high in both states with experts warning they are the last statistic to fall during an outbreak.
Professor Trauer doesn’t expect the figures to decline until February.
His conclusion comes after analysing the latest Covid-19 data from Victoria and NSW, which has also been looked at by two other epidemiologists.
Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett agreed the latest outbreak was on the decline.
‘We’re already seeing those numbers settle,’ she told Sydney Morning Herald.
‘We just have to prepare for the fact that there will be more mixing, but they’ll also be more testing … hopefully we’ll see [case numbers] continue to decline over the next couple of weeks.’
The dwindling number of cases may have raised hopes that more restrictions could be eased in NSW and Victoria. NSW premier Dominic Perrottet is unlikely to make any changes as the state prepares for the return of the school term.
Weekly Rapid Antigen Tests and a face mask mandate for teachers and students will be enforced when school students return to the classroom.
Former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said it was unnecessary for children to wear face masks.
‘Look, I have always been pretty definite on this. I continue to be definite. No masks for primary school students,’ he told Channel Nine’s Today Show on Monday.
‘I simply don’t think the evidence is there to suggest that it reduces transmission.
‘However, I would recommend that people, parents in states follow what their state governments are recommending. So, Victoria’s mandating it. That’s fine. NSW it is optional. That’s final as well. The evidence is a grey area.’
Mask wearing and restrictions on singing and dancing in hospitality venues, entertainment facilities and major recreation facilities in NSW were due to be lifted on January 27.
Mask wearing and restrictions on singing and dancing in hospitality venues, entertainment facilities and major recreation facilities in NSW were due to be lifted on January 27
The slew of restrictions were cast back over the state on January 7 after Covid infections skyrocketed over the holiday season, leading to staff shortages as thousands were plunges into isolation
Restrictions that could be dropped
Several epidemiologists claim the Omicron wave has passed its peak with case numbers already declining in NSW and Victoria.
Hopes have been raised the dwindling number of cases could pave the way for more eased restrictions.
NSW premier Dominic Perrottet has indicated that won’t be the case – with case numbers still too high and students set to return to school.
Below is a list of restrictions that could be the next go when they are finally eased by state premiers:
Face mask mandate
The face mask mandate was reintroduced by Dominic Perrottet as Omicron cases continued to surge in NSW.
It came despite promises from the premier it was time to learn to live with the virus, and that hardline restrictions and lockdown would be a thing of the past.
The mandate was expected to be lifted on January 27 – but concerns have been raised it will be extended
Singing and dancing
Singing and dancing in pubs, restaurants and entertainment facilities in NSW are currently banned.
The restriction was to be lifted on January 27 – but Mr Perrottet has yet to confirm the date.
Both NSW and Victoria have put a pin in elective surgeries.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews recently came under fire after a resident made an emotional plea to social media saying she was unable to continue her IVF procedure because of the restriction.
‘As soon as we can come out from the Code Brown (emergency declaration), as soon as we feel that it is safe and that we have significant capacity to resume services, that is exactly what we will do,’ Mr Andrews said on Sunday.
Business capacity limits
Business capacity limits of one person per two square metres are currently in force
Elective surgeries have also been paused and businesses capacity limits of one person per two square metres are in force.
But as the state’s Omicron outbreak goes on with 20,324 new cases on Sunday, the measures are said to be staying in place for the time being as the state focuses on safely sending children back to school.
The NSW premier did not confirm or deny the report during a press conference at Lidcombe Public School, in western Sydney, at 10am on Sunday.
‘We have not made a decision from a government perspective yet but ultimately my focus is to get kids back in the classroom safely on day one, term one,’ he said.
‘As children return to classrooms and mobility increases, cases will increase as well.
‘We are certainly focused, as we always are, in keeping people safe but at the same time keeping society open and getting kids back day one, term one.’
Elective surgeries have also been paused and businesses capacity limits of one person per two square metres are in force
‘The government will consider the restrictions this week prior to the date on the 27th.’
The slew of restrictions were cast back over the state on January 7 after Covid infections skyrocketed over the holiday season, leading to staff shortages as thousands were plunges into isolation.
Mr Perrottet’s government’s ‘Covid smart’ back-to-school plan was leaked on Saturday night, including giving students and teachers two free rapid antigen tests a week.
Face masks will also be made mandatory for all teachers and high school students, but not for primary school children.
Other measures include vaccine mandates for all teachers and staff as sport, music, assemblies and even school camping trips are given the green light to go ahead when children return to the class on February 1.
More to come