While many across the nation, it seems, are trying to make-believe that the pandemic is over, statistics paint an altogether different picture.
A further 48 Australians have died from COVID-19 on the weekend, with almost 39,000 new virus cases also reported.
NSW announced 11,709 fresh infections on Saturday along with 20 fatalities, Victoria posted 9064 cases and 19 deaths, 11 of them over several days, while Queensland recorded five deaths and 5885 new cases.
There were also four fatalities in South Australia.
As the nation’s health systems struggle under immense pandemic pressure, Victoria has fast-tracked paramedic recruitment.
Ambulance Victoria was called to 93,234 emergency cases between January and March this year – breaking the record set last quarter and making it the busiest in the state’s history.
As demand soared, it recruited an additional 700 paramedics in 2021. Another 100 have joined the ranks so far in 2022, with 120 more to start inductions in May.
“This recruitment drive continues … to help get more ambulances on the road and to patients quicker,” Ambulance Victoria acting CEO Libby Murphy says.
“Our lives may be returning to normal but the extraordinary strain on our hardworking paramedics and the entire health system persists.”
There are currently more than 330,000 active coronavirus cases across the nation. Almost 3200 patients are in hospital care and about 140 in ICUs.
Meanwhile two non-COVID hospital wards in Tasmania have closed after positive patients were detected in one at Hobart’s Repatriation Hospital and another at Royal Hobart Hospital.
The impacted wards are closed to non-COVID admissions and visitors until further notice, except on compassionate grounds, as contact tracing begins.
“Members of the public should be reassured that it is safe to attend the RHH and Repatriation Hospital as required,” acting state health commander Dale Webster says.
“While the incident has affected one ward in each facility, all other areas of the hospitals continue to operate.”
Elsewhere, Western Australia has moved into a new phase of pandemic management.
It’s scrapped quarantine for asymptomatic close contacts in line with national guidelines, dumped remaining gathering limits, abolished G2G travel passes and removed vaccine requirements for interstate travellers.
But workplace vaccination mandates remain, meaning the unvaccinated are still banned from working in most industries.
South Australia has also scrapped COVID-19 close contact isolation rules, bringing its restrictions into line with NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT.
Anyone deemed a close contact no longer has to isolate at home, although they will need to take five rapid antigen tests over seven days.
They will also be required to wear masks when outside the home, are banned from visiting high-risk settings like aged care centres and must tell employers and schools they have contact with of their status.
Close contacts are urged to avoid non-essential gatherings or contact with vulnerable people and must take a PCR test if they develop symptoms and isolate until receiving the result.