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Coronavirus Australia: Greg Hunt says Australia won’t return to lockdown despite rise of Omicron

The federal government does not expect states and territories to re-impose Covid-19 lockdowns, despite a worrying surge in Omicron infections.

More than 3800 new daily cases have been recorded across NSW and Victoria combined in recent days, fuelled by open borders and Christmas travel.

Other countries on the other side of the world are ramping up Covid-19 restrictions and the Netherlands is reimposing a lockdown.

But federal health minister Greg Hunt does not anticipate a return to Covid-19 lockdowns as Australia reaches the 90 per cent vaccination rate for people aged 16 and older.

The federal government doesn’t believe lockdowns will be reimposed, despite a surge in Covid cases (pictured Christmas shoppers in Sydney)

‘We’re going into summer and we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and a very different set of circumstances,’ he said.

‘We don’t see that that’s a likely situation in Australia.’ 

Mr Hunt urged people to get their booster shot as soon as they were eligible, five months after a second jab.

About 1.3 million people have received their booster shots, with more than 640,000 doled out in the last week. 

It comes as deputy chief medical officer Sonya Bennett warns Omicron transmission has a doubling time of around two days.

She has urged people to don masks while indoors, stick to outdoor Christmas gatherings and limit numbers.

‘The transmission rate alone is concerning. And if we see high numbers, that sheer number of cases is a cause for concern,’ Dr Bennett told reporters on Sunday.

‘If we do end up with a lot of cases, regardless of severity, that’s going to clearly have an impact on both business and industry, and individuals.’

Sydney will unlikely go back into lockdown due to the state high vaccination rate (pictured, beachgoers soaking up the sunshine at Bronte on Saturday)

Sydney will unlikely go back into lockdown due to the state high vaccination rate (pictured, beachgoers soaking up the sunshine at Bronte on Saturday)

Infectious diseases paediatrician Robert Booy did not expect infections to fall until February following an anticipated January peak.

‘There are so many simple things that are effective that could be reinstituted that won’t affect people’s lives too much,’ he told the ABC.

Professor Booy wants people to wear masks indoors and for contact tracing to be scaled up, not down.

He also urged NSW to bring back QR code check-ins en masse instead of reserving them for settings classified as high risk.

‘There’s all sorts of things like that that can be done which can make a difference without having to fully lock down,’ he said.

NSW recorded 2566 new infections on Sunday, Australia's highest spike in daily infections (pictured heath workers at a drive-through testing clinic at Bondi)

NSW recorded 2566 new infections on Sunday, Australia’s highest spike in daily infections (pictured heath workers at a drive-through testing clinic at Bondi)

Health minister Greg Hunt (pictured) described lockdowns as an unlikely situation in Australia

Health minister Greg Hunt (pictured) described lockdowns as an unlikely situation in Australia

NSW recorded 2566 new infections on Sunday. There are 227 people in hospital, 28 of them in intensive care.

Victoria reported 1240 new cases and four more deaths. It has 392 Covid patients in hospital, 81 of them in intensive care.

Queensland recorded 42 new cases while the ACT recorded 18.

Even if Omicron infections proved to be less severe, Prof Booy warned higher transmission rates meant just as many people could end up in hospital.

On Saturday, South Australia recorded 73 new infections, eight new cases in the Northern Territory and one in Tasmania.

Australia has hit the 90 per cent double vaccination milestone of over-16s

Australia has hit the 90 per cent double vaccination milestone of over-16s

Earlier this week, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet promised no more lockdowns for New South Wales, despite the worsening Covid-19 crisis

‘That’s certainly my intention,’ Mr Perrottet told broadcaster Alan Jones.

‘We made a compact with the people of our state based on the health information we received on vaccinations that once we got to a certain point, we wouldn’t need to go back.’

‘My focus isn’t on case numbers. It’s on ICU and hospitalisation numbers. I think coming out every single day and saying here are the case numbers, I believe will instill fear in the community.’

‘What we need to do is shift the focus from case numbers to what’s most important and that is the ICU and hospital presentations and I think we’ve successfully done that in our state.’ 

‘There are still so many commentators, politicians and members of the public who would still prefer us to be locked down in circumstances where there is no need.

‘My position in NSW is that we will get there. Freedom is the default position.

Health experts urge Australians to wear masks in indoor public settings, stick to outdoor Christmas gatherings and limit numbers (pictured shoppers in the Sydney CBD)

Health experts urge Australians to wear masks in indoor public settings, stick to outdoor Christmas gatherings and limit numbers (pictured shoppers in the Sydney CBD)

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