There are now 835 Covid patients being cared for in Queensland’s buckling hospital system – up from 819 on Tuesday, and 525 a week ago – with health bosses warning this figure could tip into the thousands as the Omicron wave builds to a crescendo.ICU admissions rose from 50 to 52 in the past 24 hours and there are still 18 people on ventilators. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also announced that from 1am Saturday, vaccinated international arrivals would be allowed into the state.The government had previously said that this would only be allowed once the 90 per cent double dose vaccination rate had been reached. That figure is currently at 88.8 per cent. Wednesday’s daily Covid tally was higher than the 15,962 cases reported the day before.Queensland’s death toll now stands at 56, a figure that has leapt eight-fold in the past two weeks.Wednesday’s fatalities included one unvaccinated person in their 30s, one in their 50s, two in their 60s one in their 70s, three in their 80s and three in their 90s. Two people had received booster shots. The update comes amid reports the state’s health system is struggling to keep up with demand. Health staff have reported being completely overrun by the surge in cases, while tents have been erected outside major hospitals, including Gold Coast University Hospital, to ensure emergency departments are not overrun. Chief health officer Dr John Gerrard on Tuesday said plans were in place for a significant increase in hospitalisations ahead of the peak of the virus wave in the coming weeks.“We are planning for numbers in the thousands,” Dr Gerrard said. “That’s what I would say.”Limits have also been placed on visitations to Queensland hospitals, with just two people allowed to visit a patient in a ward at any one time, and only one person allowed to visit a patient in an emergency department.This was in response to large family groups visiting people in hospitals.Wednesday’s update comes after the deadliest day of the pandemic so far for Queensland – and Australia – with the Sunshine State accounting for 16 of Tuesday’s nationwide record of 77 deaths.Tight border rules during the first two years of the pandemic helped keep a lid on Queensland Covid cases and fatalities, with the state recording just seven virus deaths as at January 5. But the reopening of the state’s borders in December – a move that coincided with a surging Omicron wave – has allowed Covid to take hold and place immense pressure on the public health system. Most virus deaths have been elderly people or patients with significant underlying conditions. Meanwhile, NSW on Wednesday reported another 32 deaths, while 18 more people died in Victoria over the past 24 hours.
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