In NSW, where 8,931 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded, there are 1,246 infected people in hospital with 69 in intensive care – down slightly from Tuesday’s figures.
Restrictions are easing with QR check-ins removed at most venues last week, and from Friday masks will no longer be required in most indoor settings.
From Monday, staff and students in NSW schools will no longer be required to take rapid antigen tests twice a week unless they have symptoms.
Instead, staff and students will receive eight RAT kits to use as needed.
High school students will no longer be required to wear masks from next week, Sydney radio 2GB reported on Wednesday.
Masks will be phased out for teachers the following week, he said.
Meanwhile, Victoria reported 6,926 new infections.
There are 42,016 active cases in the state, a decrease of more than 5,000 from Tuesday.
There are 319 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 26 less than the previous day’s figure, with 22 active cases in intensive care and eight on ventilators.
The latest figures come as the state is days away from further easing restrictions, with indoor mask-wearing and work-from-home rules set to be scrapped as of 11:59 p.m. Friday.
Additionally, all remaining restrictions on elective surgery will be lifted on Monday.
Primary students in grade 3 or higher will continue to wear masks, as will teachers, but secondary students will not.
Masks will still be mandatory on public transport, in taxis and carpools, on planes, at airports and in hospitals and care facilities.
Hospitality, retail, court and corrections workers will still be required to don a mask.
Moderna is ready for child deployment this week
Children ages 6 to 11 will have access to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine starting Thursday.
Australia’s Immunization Technical Advisory Group endorsed the vaccine following approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration last week.
This will be half the adult dose.
“We [will] having Moderna in over 4,000 points of presence across the country,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
So far, 49.4% of children aged 5-11 have been vaccinated, with the government calling on schools to play a bigger role in childbirth.
Mr Hunt has asked infectious disease expert Professor Julie Leask to lead a roundtable next week with the Commonwealth, States and the health sector to look at what can be done to improve vaccination uptake, including the wider use of schools.
A federal government study conducted earlier this year showed that at least two-thirds of parents intended to have their children vaccinated.
Some parents have been discouraged by misinformation about vaccines, while others have struggled to get time off from work or find an accessible local clinic.
First dose rates for young children across the states range from 77.2% in the ACT to 42.2% in Queensland, according to the latest health department data.
Case spike in WA
The number of Omicron cases in Western Australia increased significantly on Wednesday with 643 new local infections recorded and five people hospitalised.
The new figures reflect a doubling in the number of cases overnight and by far the most local infections WA has recorded during the pandemic.
Calls for the McGowan government to release its Omicron modeling were finally heeded on Tuesday with the release of a five-page brief on WA Health.
Modeling suggests WA will have 463,932 new symptomatic cases and 129 deaths over the next six months, with 715 people admitted to intensive care.
It says the outbreak will peak between April and May at around 10,000 daily cases before dropping significantly during the winter months.
WA Health noted that the actual numbers may be lower than estimates because WA was “significantly more vaccinated than other Australian jurisdictions” at the start of its outbreak.
The reopening of WA’s borders on March 3 will have “little or no effect” on the outbreak, adding just 13 daily cases.
What’s happening elsewhere?
Queensland recorded 6,300 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
It came as the state reported its second-highest number of daily COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic began.
There are 379 patients being treated for COVID-19 in hospital and another 35 in intensive care.
Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said not all of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours, with 29 reported by the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry.
Tasmania reported 842 new cases and a further rise in the number of active infections in the state.
Wednesday’s daily figure is a slight increase from the 820 new infections reported on Tuesday, a marked jump from 569 the day before.
There are 4,080 documented active cases, the eighth consecutive day the figure has increased.
There were 946 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the ACT, bringing the total number of active cases in the territory to 3,185.
Forty of them are hospitalized, including two in intensive care.
South Australia saw a spike in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, recording 1,958 new infections and two more people in intensive care.
The new figures represent a daily increase of nearly 600 cases, although the total number of people in hospital fell to 192.
Fourteen of those people are in intensive care and three are on ventilators. Active infections in South Africa stand at 14,119.
The Northern Territory recorded 864 new cases of COVID-19.
The number of active cases in the Territory is 5,513, with 131 patients in hospital, four in intensive care and 11 requiring oxygen.