Australia treasurer tests positive for COVID-19 as cases hit a record

SYDNEY: Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he had tested positive to COVID-19 and was isolating, joining other senior government officials to have contracted the disease amid a record number of cases in an outbreak of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

“Like thousands of Australians, I tested positive today to COVID-19,” Frydenberg wrote in a short message which he posted to Twitter and Facebook late on Friday (Jan 7).

“I have the common symptoms and am isolating with my family,” he added without elaborating or disclosing which variant he had.

Other high-ranked Australian lawmakers including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Defence Minister Peter Dutton have contracted and overcome the illness.

Under current Australian COVID-19 guidelines, people who return a positive test and those deemed “close contacts” must isolate for seven days.

Australia has been posting successive record numbers of new daily infections, with surges in cases in the two most populous states again reported on Saturday.

New South Wales reported 45,098 new cases, from the previous day’s record 38,625, while Victoria, home to the upcoming Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, saw daily cases more than double to 51,356. The states reported a total 18 COVID-19 deaths the same day.

Even with the country’s other six states and territories yet to report numbers, the total of just New South Wales and Victoria, 96,454, smashed the previous day’s national record of just over 78,000.

The Victorian total included rapid antigen test results from previous days, which could only be entered through a website from Friday, authorities added.

Australian leaders, including Frydenberg, have been urging the country to move on from a strategy of stop-start lockdowns now that more than 90 per cent of the population aged over 16 fully vaccinated.

But state leaders have been reintroducing restrictions amid exploding case numbers, mostly of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. A day earlier, New South Wales cancelled non-urgent surgery to clear hospital space for COVID-19 patents and resumed a ban on dancing and drinking while standing up in bars, measures to slow the spread.

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