WA’s reported COVID cases have dropped for a fourth consecutive day with hospitalisations steadying — although close to breaking through the 300-barrier for the first time.
There were an additional 12,399 infections in the latest reporting period to 8pm Saturday, while the number of people in hospital with COVID edged up slightly to 294 (from 292 the previous day).
The number of patients in ICU remained stable at 10.
Four additional deaths were also reported dating back to April 30: a man in his 50s and two men and a woman in their 90s.
Reported cases have tended to drop over the weekend as testing numbers decline and there were just 10,648 PCT tests conducted on Saturday, of which 4505 (42 per cent) came back positive.
That compares to PCR testing numbers well north of 15,000 during every weekday last week – and closer to 20,000 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The State’s active caseload has swelled to a new record 88,238 – which means active infections have more than doubled in the space of a fortnight.
The big surge in cases comes after Premier Mark McGowan relaxed the majority of Level 1 COVID restrictions – including mask-wearing and capacity limits – on April 29.
Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson on Friday said he expected daily cases would peak at around 25,000 next week before beginning to decline.
That is far higher than the 10,000 case peak forecast in Omicron modelling prepared by WA Health prior to the removal of WA’s hard border.
However, Mr McGowan has repeatedly said hospitalisation – and in particular the number of patients in ICU – were now a more important indicator than cases, with the State’s world-leading three-dose vaccination rate (80.7 per cent) meaning the vast majority of West Australians experienced only very mild illness.
The Premier also said on Friday that the “millions upon millions” or free rapid antigen tests that had been provided by the McGowan Government meant many more cases were being captured and reported in WA than in other States.
“Victoria is going through five waves of COVID. We’ve had basically one,” he said.
“So, over there I think people don’t worry about reporting anymore.
The Australian Medical Association (WA) has pleaded for the urgent re-introduction of masks in public in response to the soaring case numbers, with president Mark Duncan-Smith warning hospitalisations would hit 350 in the coming week.
“The increased strain on the system will manifest as increased and critical ramping, problems (with) ambulance availability, probable elective surgery cancellation, staff burn out and worse outcomes for all hospital presentations, not just COVID,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.