The number of Australians on ventilators with Covid has dropped over three weeks despite a surge in cases.
A total of 51 Covid patients are currently ventilated, down from 54 on December 15, Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday.
The positive news came as former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth doubled down on his claim the pandemic will end this year because Covid will become a seasonal virus like flu.
Australia has suffered a spike in cases since the turn of the New Year (pictured are revellers in Sydney on NYE) – but the number of patients on ventilators has gone down
‘The pandemic will come to an end in 2022 because the virus will become endemic, and that means that Covid will circulate in the community,’ he told 2GB on Monday.
‘It’s circulating already in the eastern states so, to an extent, we’re already there. It’s not a very convenient time to be having very high case numbers but there never was a convenient time.’
Dr Coatsworth had made the same claims in an op-ed he wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday.
He stated that vaccination jabs and the spread of the mild Omicron strain will finally make the world immune to Covid.
‘We will live our lives again as part of the incredibly social and incurably optimistic human species that thrives on this planet,’ he wrote.
‘2022 will be the year the pandemic ends. It could even be sooner than we think.’
Earlier Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the dominant Omicron variant is 75 per cent less severe than the Delta strain.
Mr Hunt said this helped explain why Australia’s hospital system was coping well with increased cases which hit 32,216 on Sunday after a record 35,208 on Saturday.
‘The fact that we now have a disease which right around the world is leading to more cases, but to vastly fewer severe cases… is an immensely heartening development,’ he said.
NSW has recorded 20,794 new cases with in 1,204 in hospital and four deaths on Monday as Scott Morrison vows lockdowns are over (pictured, concert-goers in Melbourne)
‘There are challenges in every phase of this pandemic. But Australia has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and one of the lowest rates of death and loss of life in the world.’
There are currently 148 patients in ICU with Covid across the whole nation. Mr Morrison is so confident in the hospital system that he has totally ruled out more lockdowns.
Asked if Australia would need a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown to stop the surge, Mr Morrison told the Today Show: ‘No. Because it is not about numbers.
‘I keep making this point. This is a different type of variant which requires an evolution of our response.’
‘The days of lockdown are gone. We’re going forward. We’re not going back. That’s not how you manage this virus.
‘There will be high case numbers but the severity is a lot less so you focus on your hospital system.
‘I think you’re seeing that. We’ve got 51 people on ventilators around the country. 148 people in ICU.’
Mr Morrison said the vast majority of people who catch the Omicron strain, which was discovered in November in South Africa, have a mild illness that can be managed at home.
‘If you are in hospital at the moment, the primary reason for that is you weren’t vaccinated. The second reason is you’ve got Delta, not Omicron.
‘With Omicron, there is only a very small number of cases that are in hospital,’ he said.
‘We’re now dealing with a very different virus. We’ve really got to change the way we think about it and that’s why talking about case numbers now is really not the point.’
On Monday NSW recorded 20,794 new cases with 1,204 in hospital and four deaths.
An additional 12 people were admitted into ICU in hospitals across NSW overnight – up from 83 patients the day previous.
Sunday marked the first time there were more than 1,000 Covid patients in NSW hospitals since October 2. The most ever recorded was 1,268 on September 21.
Victoria recorded three deaths and 8,577 new infections on Monday – jumping from 1,999 just seven days ago and 7,172 cases on Sunday.
There are 491 patients in Victorian hospitals – up from 472 on Sunday – with 56 people in ICU and 24 on ventilators.
Monday’s numbers come after it was revealed about half of patients counted in NSW’s daily Covid hospitalisation tally are not in hospital because of the virus.
Some have simply testing positive for Covid following routine checks after being admitted for broken bones or labour pains.
AUSTRALIA’S NEW COVID RULES
Who should get a PCR test? Anyone who has symptoms or who has got a positive rapid antigen test
New definition of close contact: Someone who has spent at least four hours in a household or a care facility with a positive case. Workplaces do not count.
New isolation period: Positive people and close contacts must isolate for seven days or 10 in SA. This is regardless of whether the close contacts test negative or not
Timing: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT implemented the new rules on New Year’s Eve.
Tasmania followed on January 1 while the Northern Territory and Western Australia will not adopt the scheme until they get more Covid cases in the weeks ahead.