SYDNEY - Australia's COVID-19 hospital cases and people admitted to intensive care continued to trend lower on Tuesday as authorities urged people to get their vaccine boosters to prevent serious illness and deaths from the coronavirus.
Fuelled by the Omicron strain, Australia's total infections have now touched nearly 2.4 million, almost 10% of the country's population, with about 2.2 million in the last two months alone.
But Omicron's less lethal impact and the gathering pace of Australia's programme of booster doses have fed optimism that the country's worst outbreak of the pandemic may have peaked.
Dominic Perrottet, the leader of New South Wales (NSW), said he was seeing "so many green shoots" amid a steady decline in hospital cases.
Just over 2,000 people with COVID are in hospitals in the state, Australia's most populous and the hardest hit during the Omicron wave. That's the lowest tally in three weeks.
"It is pleasing to see the decline in hospitalisations and ICU admissions and we are hoping that trend continues," NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said during a media briefing.
Australia had been largely successful in limiting COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic, helped by tough travel and social distancing restrictions. It began easing curbs late last year after reaching higher vaccination rates despite the threat from the Omicron variant.
On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, facing criticism over his handling of the Omicron outbreak, said Australia will fully reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers from Feb. 21 after nearly two years.
More than 28,000 new cases were reported in the country on Tuesday, up around 5,000 from a day earlier, but well below the pandemic peak of 150,000 last month. A total of 55 new deaths were reported, taking the toll since the start of the pandemic to 4,303.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Lincoln Feast.) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +61 29171 7126;))