Hospitals expecting big spike in hospitalisations as BA.5 variant takes hold

Health experts have put out another warning to remain vigilant about Covid-19 as hospitals prepare for things to go downhill.Health experts have put out another warning to remain vigilant about Covid-19 as hospitals brace for a spike in admissions.Experts are predicting hospitalisations from the current BA.5 variant will peak at a similar level to the initial wave of the Omicron strain in January.More than 40,000 Covid cases are now being reported daily across the country, with thousands in hospital and more than 100 people in intensive care. Australian Medical Association vice-president Chris Moy, who has regularly cautioned against relaxing Covid restrictions, said hospitals were “facing a really big threat”.“I’ve not heard health authorities so worried for quite a period of time behind the scenes, because we’re extremely worried about facing BA.4 and 5 Omicron variants which are more infectious and cause more reinfections,” Dr Moy told the ABC on Monday.“More people are ending up in hospital just when our hospitals are absolutely chock-a-block full because they’ve been neglected for so long. We’re just about to enter a much worse phase.”The AHPPC said the new subvariants could more easily evade immunity and were likely to cause rates of reinfection to rise among those who had previously been infected and those who were fully vaccinated.It will also be harder to stop these variants because a prior Covid infection or vaccinations are reportedly not as effective at preventing them from spreading compared to previous strains.“We‘re extremely worried about facing BA. 4 and 5 Omicron subvariants, which are more infectious, cause more reinfections and severe disease, because it looks like they’re more likely to go down into your lungs,” Dr Moy continued.NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant last week warned the state was “at the start of a third Covid-19 Omicron wave and expect to see a significant rise in cases” and said the outbreak could peak in July or early August.“I’m concerned about this picture and I am calling on the community to do a few things to protect yourself and each other,” she said.“Isolate if you’re sick and get tested, wear a mask when indoors and around other people and know if antivirals are recommended from you,” Dr Chant said.“So please wear a mask in indoor areas around other people outside your home, including public transport, pharmacies and shops. Masks, while protecting yourself, can also protect other people.”It came as Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of global cases had jumped by nearly 30 per cent globally in the past two weeks.The Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, first detected in South Africa in November last year, are largely responsible for the outbreaks in Europe and the US, where the majority of new cases were logged.Testing for Covid-19 has fallen off a cliff around the world and the WHO doesn’t have a clear picture of the true number of cases.New oral antiviral treatments are not reaching low and low-middle income countries, Dr Tedros added.And as the virus evolves, the effectiveness of vaccines will be reduced.Dr Tedros said while vaccines were “still really effective at preventing serious disease and death”, the protection given by vaccines would wane as new variants emerged. “Decreasing immunity underscores the importance of boosters, especially for the most at-risk,” he said.Australia’s Covid death toll has now surpassed 10,000 people.Originally published as Covid-19: Hospitals expecting spike in hospitalisations as BA.5 variant takes hold