For the majority of the pandemic, Australia’s tight borders and stringent lockdowns kept Covid case numbers so low it became the envy of the world – but now the nation is among the most virus-ravaged places on earth.
Sitting 9th on the list of countries’ cases per 100,000 people, Australia has surpassed the US, the UK and all of South America, as well as Southern Africa where the Omicron strain was first discovered.
But unlike many foreign nations, Australia still has a remarkably low death rate from Covid – ranking 79th in the world – thanks to its world-leading vaccination figures.
Australia’s infection rate over the past seven days has now soared to 87,815 with 346 people in every 100,000 coming down with the virus – following two years of sporadic lockdowns, harsh restrictions and tough border policies.
Thankfully, experts are predicting the peak of Australia’s rampant Omicron wave will be reached by January 26 – Australia Day – and then will steadily start to fall.
In comparison the US has a daily average of 760,936 cases across a much bigger population, leaving it with a lower infection rate of 229 people per 100,000.
The UK, currently diagnosing 155,868 cases a days, is seeing 233 people in every 100,000 get infected, while South Africa – once deemed the epicentre of the Omicron outbreak now has an infection rate of just 12.
Australia’s low pandemic case numbers were once the envy of the world, but now the nation is among the most Covid-ravaged places on earth (pictured, shoppers in Brisbane CBD)
Sitting as the 9th highest country on the list of cases per 100,000 people, Australia has surpassed the US, the UK, all of South America, as well as Southern Africa where the Omicron strain was first discovered (pictured, Melbourne paramedics)
THE GLOBE’S WORST COVID HOTSPOTS
1. Andorra – Daily average: 534. Cases per 100,000 people: 693.
2. Seychelles – Daily average: 489. Cases per 100,000 people: 500.
3. British Virgin Islands – Daily average: 143 Cases per 100,000 people: 478.
4. Ireland – Daily average: 22,015. Cases per 100,000 people: 446.
5. Gibraltar – Daily average: 148. Cases per 100,000 people: 440.
6. Monaco – Daily average: 169. Cases per 100,000 people: 433.
7. France – Daily average: 283,711. Cases per 100,000 people: 423.
8. Montenegro – Daily average: 2,463. Cases per 100,000 people: 396.
9. Channel Islands – Daily average: 667. Cases per 100,000 people: 387.
10. Cayman Islands – Daily average: 245. Cases per 100,000 people: 378.
11. San Marino – Daily average: 119. Cases per 100,000 people: 353.
12. Denmark – Daily average: 20,762. Cases per 100,000 people: 350.
13. Australia – Daily average: 87,815. Cases per 100,000 people: 346.
14. Cyprus – Daily average: 4,128. Cases per 100,000 people: 344.
15. Portugal – Daily average: 33,285. Cases per 100,000 people: 324.
16. Isle of Man – Daily average: 267. Cases per 100,000 people: 316.
17. Switzerland – Daily average: 25,66. Cases per 100,000 people: 299.
18. Greece – Daily average: 31,899. Cases per 100,000 people: 298.
19. Iceland – Daily average: 1,071. Cases per 100,000 people: 296.
20. Italy – Daily average: 172,559. Cases per 100,000 people: 286.
*The daily average of cases is tallied using the past seven days of infections. Not all areas listed above are countries.
Source: The New York Times, Coronavirus World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak
Just 0.1 people per every 100,000 succumb to the virus Down Under.
This compares to 1.83 in Monaco, the highest in the world, and 0.52 in the United States.
And while Australia’s high placing on the case numbers list may seem alarming, the data may not accurately represent the real rate of infection in many countries as authoritarian governments are likely to be underreporting their case numbers.
Likewise, many infections have gone unreported Down Under in recent weeks, with a shortage of rapid antigen tests and many people unable to get a PCR swab.
As many of Omicron’s carriers, mainly people aged between 20 and 30, have been exposed already, the virus spread may start to slow when it meets people with immunity.
‘South Africa saw their peaks in these kinds of timeframes. Hopefully high rates of transmissions we will start to see it turn around in similar timeframes,’ Catherine Bennett, chair in Epidemiology at Deakin University.
Experts have warned Australia’s Omicron peak may not hit until the end of January when the highly infectious variant finally ‘runs out’ of ‘core’ carriers to infect (pictured, Covid testing at Sydney’s Bondi Beach)
Australia’s case numbers are not thought to be accurate, thanks to huge queues for PCR tests convincing people to stay away (pictured, testing in Bondi Junction on January 8)
‘We’d expect to see waves within the big wave hopefully start to turn around in Australia in the very near future, in about two weeks, so before the end of January.’
The rest of the country outside of major cities will follow, meaning Australia will see the virus spread slowed by mid-February.
‘We know the virus mainly spreads in young adults and twentysomethings, because they are the ones mixing most socially and also they are the essential workers,’ Ms Bennett said.
‘As you get enough people who’ve had the infection it naturally slows it down because the virus keeps on meeting people who have had it.
‘Those areas with high rates will reach a point where there just aren’t as many people susceptible in the community.’
The continuing booster rollout will also play a big part in the virus hitting a brick wall of immunity in the community, she said.
But until the skyrocketing rates of infection begin to wane it’s going to be a tough time for Australians as supply chain chaos leaves supermarket shelves across the country bare.
Australia’s infection rate over the past seven days has now soared to 86,999 with 343 people in every 100,000 coming down with the virus (pictured, a patient at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney)
Deputy chief heath officer Professor Michael Kidd warned at a media conference on Monday that with the prevalence of the Omicron strain, many Australians would likely test positive to Omicron over the next few weeks (pictured, ambulances in Melbourne)
Supermarket giant Coles recently announced buying limits on various chicken, beef and pork products and on Tuesday, said they would limit toilet paper and over-the-counter painkillers to cope with demand at their 800 stores.
While a rush to buy is part of the problem, the supply chain crunch is also being compounded by staff shortages as thousands of workers are forced to isolate due to Covid.
Distribution centres are struggling to find drivers and packers while supermarket stores are also finding it tough to get workers.
‘To maintain availability & make it fair for everyone we’ve introduced national purchase limits: toilet paper (1 pack) and select medicinal items (paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin) (2 packs),’ Coles said in a statement on Tuesday.
Supermarkets nationwide have to been struggle to keep products on shelves amid the Covid crisis (pictured, Neutral Bay Woolworths in Sydney)
Experts say it may take weeks before things return to normal in Australian supermarkets (pictured, Neutral Bay Woolworths)
Thousands of packers and and drivers at distribution centres have been forced to isolation leaving fresh produce sections bare in many supermarkets (pictured, Neutral Bay Woolworths in Sydney)
‘Please continue to treat our team with kindness & respect and only purchase what you need.’
Deputy chief heath officer Professor Michael Kidd warned on Monday that with the prevalence of the Omicron strain, many Australians would likely test positive to Omicron over the next few weeks.
‘With the rising case numbers we’ve seen over the past week in many parts of the country, it’s likely that many of us will test positive for Covid-19 over the coming days and weeks if we haven’t already done so,’ he said.
While he said most cases could be mild ‘some might become seriously unwell’ so it was still important to isolate if you test positive and seek medical advice if stronger symptoms develop.