A leading epidemiologist has weighed in on the current NSW spike, estimating the real number to be hidden in the rough amid testing complications.
Australian epidemiologist Tony Blakely has weighed in on the current wave of Omicron cases sweeping Australia, explaining how official case numbers are likely representing a snippet of the actual spread.
As Australia moves to self-testing via rapid antigens, Scott Morrison has urged the public to report their positive cases to their local GP. With the onus being placed on the public to help record official numbers, coupled with the higher transmission rate from the Omicron variant, Professor Blakely believes the actual daily number could be up to five times higher than reported.
The good news is the Omicron variant is proving to be far less severe than previous strains and will offer those infected, whether they know they have been or not, with natural immunity.
Professor Blakely said the wildfire spread will likely see the wave “peak quite soon” as the virus “runs out of people to infect”.
“I think it’s roughly five times the number of case notifications,” he said on Thursday’s edition of The Project.
“That kind of agrees with estimates being used by one of the US premier health metrics organisations so if we think about NSW, 35,000 cases means 150-200,000 infections per day, which is quite something.
“But the good news is with that many people being infected every day you’re starting to run out of new people to infect and this wave, at least in NSW, will peak quite soon and then probably come down quite quickly and then it will follow that sort of pattern in Victoria, in Queensland, the Northern Territory and the rest of the country.”
Interestingly, Professor Blakely’s estimates came barely a fortnight after leaked modelling from the Doherty Institute claiming Australia “could record up to 200,000 coronavirus cases each day by late January” was labelled “highly misleading” by Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and “completely unlikely” by the Prime Minister.
Professor Blakely roughly estimated the peak to hit sometime next week, after NSW Health recorded its second day in a row of over 30,000 cases.
“It might even be peaking right now,” he continued. “But in the other states it’ll be delayed by approximately the amount of time that the wave started in those states and territories. So it will come down, and it may come down quite quickly.”
The exponential spread comes as worrying new data out of the University of Copenhagen suggested fully vaccinated individuals are 2.7-3.7 times more susceptible to catching Omicron than they were to Delta.
Professor Blakely, who has been a regular media contributor throughout the pandemic, went on to criticise the Morrison government for its handling of the transition to rapid antigen tests as the nation’s most populous states opened up over the Christmas break.
He lamented the “enormous failure”, which has seen countless Aussies scramble between pharmacies, service stations and even burger joints to get their hands on the single-use tests.
“We should have had heaps of rapid antigen tests in the country because even the Prime Minister, as well as the Chief Medical Officer, as well as commentators like me, we have been talking for six months about pivoting to rapid antigen tests and we don’t have them in the country, and we don’t have the information system for you to lodge that up,” he said.
Professor Blakely concluded on a high note, estimating that the current spread will have Australia well-placed in the event of another coronavirus variant hitting shores.
He estimated “somewhere between a third or two-thirds of people” would be infected with omicron with a large portion likely never even knowing they had contracted it.
He said the Omicron wave would provide Australia with “something like herd immunity” and will leave the general population “more resilient to whatever comes at us next”.
NSW recorded 34,994 infections of Covid-19 and six deaths on Thursday.
There are currently 1609 people in hospital in NSW, up from the 1491 reported 24 hours earlier. 131 of those patients are in intensive care.
Originally published as Epidemiologist Tony Blakely reveals silver lining in NSW’s Covid-19 case boom
Source: Sun Herald