Record COVID Case Numbers Reported in Two Australia States

SYDNEY (AP) -
Lines of cars are seen as members of the public wait for their COVID-19 tests at St Vincent’s Hospital drive-through testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Dec. 17. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi via REUTERS)

Australia’s Victoria and Queensland states reported record levels of new daily coronavirus infections on Tuesday as pressure on testing centers prompted calls for wider use of rapid antigen tests.

Queensland state reported 1,158 cases, the first time the state has seen more than 1,000 cases in a day, but hospitalizations remained low. The state has more than 4,000 active cases of which 257 are reported to be the omicron variant.

State Health Minister Yvette D’Ath announced Tuesday that travelers from out of state no longer will have to have a PCR test five days after arrival. D’Ath said of the tens of thousands who had crossed the state’s borders recently, only 0.6% had tested positive on day five.

Long lines were reported at testing centers around Sydney on Tuesday.

Australian federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has called for rapid antigen tests to replace PCR tests for most interstate travelers, to relieve pressure on testing centers.

“Using that rapid antigen test ahead of interstate travel is a better approach than the more expensive and time-consuming PCR test,” Frydenberg told the ABC. “I think that’s a sensible balance recognizing that people want some level of surety about their health status before they travel.

“But at the same time they want to avoid the long queues and long waiting times coming with the PCR tests.”