Nine new Covid deaths as hospital cases surge

The Victorian government on Saturday afternoon said nine people aged in their 70s, 80s and 90s had died, bringing the total number of deaths in Victoria since the pandemic began to 3,030.There are now 60,310 active Covid cases in Victoria. It comes as the government starts officially reporting third dose (booster) rates for Victorians aged over 16 years, with 66.6 per cent of Victorians now triple vaccinated.Victoria reached an unwanted Covid milestone on Friday, with more than 500 people being treated for the virus in hospital, some seriously ill.It is the highest number of patients hospitalised with Covid since February 11 this year. It comes as further cases of a new, mutant Omicron strain are detected in Melbourne, with the BA.2.12.1 and the BA.4 or BA.5 sub-variants being reported in wastewater samples on Friday.Two detections of the BA.2.12.1 have been found in the Melbourne Airport water catchment and from a catchment that services Melbourne’s northeast. Another two of the same variant have been found in the southeast Melbourne catchment. The Department of Health has reported that the BA.4 or BA.5 strain has been detected twice more in catchments servicing the inner southern suburbs and northeast Donvale. Authorities will continue to analyse PCR samples from the wastewater to better understand the strength and transmission of these new strains.Associate Professor Stuart Turville, from Immunovirology and Pathogenesis Program at the Kirby Institute from the University of New South Wales, said the new variants were examples of “small changes in the right place”.He told the Australian Science Media Centre these new Omicron variants, are descended from BA2 Omicron — referred to as “stealth omicron”.Both BA1 and BA2 Omicron were noticeable for their ability to “significantly evade a previous antibody response (through past infection and/or vaccine generated)”.There are 502 patients in Victorian hospitals with Covid – with 27 active cases in ICU, including eight on a ventilator, and an additional four cleared cases in ICU.

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