Western Australia has recorded 10,182 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began.
It follows a previous peak of 9,782 cases in the state yesterday.
But Premier Mark McGowan maintains the state has done better than expected, due to its high vaccination rate and delayed border reopening.
There are now 271 people in hospital with the virus, an increase of more than 10 per cent on yesterday’s figures, and nine are in ICU.
The state has also reported six more deaths of people with COVID dating back to March 28, four women and two men over the age of 80.
Rising case numbers not the whole story
The rise in cases had been predicted, with the Chief Health Officer warning it would occur as a consequence of easing restrictions, including the removal of mask-wearing, which happened at the end of last week.
Mr McGowan said the government had expected to see an increase in case numbers, but said that figure wasn’t the most appropriate to use when assessing where the state is at in its COVID-19 journey.
“We expected case numbers would perhaps increase a little bit and they’re relatively flat, they’re much less than was predicted in the modelling some months ago,” he said.
“The ICU and hospitalisations rates are significantly less than what was predicted.”
“The most important thing to look at in all of this is the hospitalisations, particularly intensive care as that gives us the best indication of the severity of the illness.”
Premier says WA ‘soft landing’ unchanged
Despite the rise in COVID cases, the Premier reiterated the state had achieved a ‘soft landing’, after delaying re-opening the border due to the Omicron outbreak over east.
“The softest landing in the world, with the best health outcomes and the best economic outcomes of anywhere in the world with the highest vaccination rates of anywhere in Australia, probably the world,” he said.
WA COVID-19 snapshot
Confirmed cases so far: 415,563
WA population aged 16+ triple-dosed: 79.8 per cent
In February, the state government released Omicron-based modelling that predicted WA would reach a peak of 10,363 cases by late March.
The previous peak before cases started to rise this week was recorded on March 29, when WA tallied 9,754 cases.
That modelling also predicted there would be around 443 COVID patients in WA hospitals at one time, with 56 of those likely to require intensive care.
While there has been a significant jump in hospitalisations in the past 24 hours, from 242 to 271, that figure remains far below those predictions from the state government modelling.
Infection numbers expected to fluctuate
Mr McGowan predicted case numbers would continue to “bounce around” following the removal of restrictions last week.
“We think it will remain relatively stable, but it will bounce around, the numbers will bounce around,” he said.
“Anyone out there who is concerned, if you want to wear a mask, weak a mask.”
He pointed to WA’s free RAT program, which offers each household 15 free tests, as a possible reason for the rising case numbers.
More than half of today’s infection figures came from positive rapid antigen tests according to WA Health, with 6,069 cases self-reported and 4,113 confirmed through PCR testing
“You’ve got to remember the case numbers are based on self-reporting,” he said.
“They’re dependent on people basically logging on and saying they have COVID so as to whether or not people are out there who aren’t doing that we don’t know, because we can’t tell.
“We have provided more RATs to the community than anywhere in Australia so naturally that is going to mean more RAT testing and therefore more people reporting than anywhere else in Australia,” Mr McGowan said.
Mr McGowan said WA had reached a third-dose vaccination rate for those aged 16 and over of 79.9 per cent.
WA has reported 425,704 cases since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Pandemic not over: AMA
Australian Medical Association WA president Mark Duncan-Smith said the new record in infections should be a reminder that the pandemic is not over.
“It’s greatly concerning to doctors that there’s been approximately 7,000 deaths in Australia since the beginning of the pandemic, even more concerning is that 2,000 of those have occurred in the last 30 days,” he said.
“This is a clear message to both Western Australia and all Australians that this pandemic is not over.
“We are still in the middle of this pandemic. And for WA, we’ve hit the new peak.”
He did not agree with the Premier that the ICU rate was the most important figure when assessing the state’s COVID position.
“The hospitalisation rate is also a key figure of where you’re going to be a week later, as far as ICU rates go,” he said.
“Hospitalisations are up 12 per cent compared to yesterday. We need to keep a close eye on this figure because the medical system is under strain.
“There is a lot of people furloughing, there’s a lot of people off sick with COVID.”
Mask lifting effect not yet seen
Dr Duncan-Smith said he thought it was too early to determine what impact the most recent removal of restrictions, including the mask mandate, would have.
He said he believed the latest peak in infections was likely a result from the removal of prior restrictions, which were lifted mid-April.
“It’ll be very interesting to see where we go next week, which will probably reflect more of what’s happened due to the mask mandate,” he said.
“I also reiterate what I’ve said previously, that I would have much preferred the government use the language that masks are now voluntary indoors, rather than them saying that they’re no longer mandated.”
And with the influenza season now underway, Dr Duncan-Smith urged people to get vaccinated.
“That is another effect that the government really has to watch closely,” he said.
“This [the flu] in combination with COVID could see a very ugly winter and certainly anybody who has a flu vaccine due, I strongly encourage them to get their flu shot.
“And if anyone is due a COVID vaccine, go and get that as well.”