44,155 new COVID-19 infections, four more deaths, thousands of tests left unprocessed

There are 752 people with the virus hospitalised, with 104 in ICU and 23 on a ventilator.

State COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said of today’s figures, 80 per cent are the Omicron variant.

Mr Weimar said according to recent sequencing done by state health authorities, Omicron is “significantly” displacing the Delta variant.

He said an estimated 9000 of today’s figures are from rapid tests registered online, but the state is still “catching up” with high testing demand.

“We’re not at the standard that we expect to be at,” Mr Weimar said.

“We have high expectations here in Victoria about speed and return of PCR test results and a fair bit of work still to do, but I think that the labs have made significant ground in the last four to five days and I know there’s been challenging measures to undertake this.”

Mr Weimar said like many businesses and many organisations struggling, testing teams are trying to make sure they have sufficient staff available to work on bringing through results in a timely manner.

Mr Weimar said about half of PCR test results are being returned within 48 hours, but the other half are taking longer than two days to come back.

“If you’re waiting for a PCR test result, please be assured that you will get a result, you will get a message from the lab at some point,” he said.

“It may not be as quick as we would like, but the times are starting to come down and you will get a swift result.”

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said it was "reasonably encouraging" to see the daily number of new cases around 1500.
COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said the state’s testing requirements were not where they wanted them at this point. (Nine)

Mr Weimar said he was aware Melbourne Pathology made the decision yesterday not to process tests older than seven days in the labs and this was broadly agreed upon after discussions.

“There’s a very low utility in processing test results that old. I apologise to the 7000 people who received those Melbourne Pathology messages that said they will not be continuing to process their test sample,” he said.

Mr Weimar said he encourages anybody who is still symptomatic in that cohort or still concerned to please come forward and get another PCR or a rapid antigen test.

“It is all part of that significant challenge that we had over the Christmas and New Year period with the 300,000 or so travel tests that we had to process and all of the other challenges over that period.”

Today’s numbers follow yesterday’s case record of 51,356, which was spurred in part due to rapid antigen tests being included in the daily numbers for the first time.

Yesterday’s numbers included a backlog of RAT results from the previous week.

The numbers follow yesterday’s case record of 51,356, which was spurred in part due to rapid antigen tests being included in the daily numbers for the first time. (Diego Fedele/Getty)

Despite the higher numbers in recent days, Health Minister Greg Hunt said it is “very heartening that there are only 76 patients on ventilation for COVID-19 across the country”.

Mr Hunt said 141,000 boosters were administered yesterday, forming part of 164,000 vaccine doses given out in total and this was Australia’s “highest Saturday since October”.

“At a national level, we have surpassed 94.7 per cent first doses. We are within sight of 95 per cent which has always been seen as the full vaccination level, but we want to keep pushing. Our over 50 population are almost 99 per cent, and we have passed the 92 per cent figure for second doses,” he said.

Mr Hunt also said around 1.25 million vaccines were delivered last week, and thanked the “incredible work by our GPs, our pharmacists, and the state clinics are no coming back online… as well as our Indigenous medical clinics”.

Speaking yesterday, Health Minister Martin Foley said the reporting of RATs was exactly what the state government wanted to see.

“This is in many respects exactly what we wanted to happen, and we thank all those people for reporting their COVID-19 status to us,” Mr Foley said.

“It’s given us a realistic picture of transmission in the community. We knew there were undiagnosed cases out there.

“Having this realistic figure allows us to put more people in contact with the support they need.”

Coles Eastgardens

How Australia faced the emergence of the Omicron variant

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