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Twenty-three new COVID-19 deaths reported in NSW and Victoria

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Some 203 people are in intensive care with COVID-19, an increase of 12.

At the depths of the Delta outbreak last September, there were 244 COVID-infected people in ICUs.

Of the newly reported cases on Monday, 17,646 were traditional PCR tests and 11,858 were the results of at-home rapid tests reported to the government.

More than 1,000 of the rapid test results were more than a week old, but newly reported through ServiceNSW.

The total number of positive results reported was 5,156 fewer than the day before.

NSW Police will on Wednesday officially begin enforcing a $1,000 fine for people who fail to report rapid results, although it remains to be seen how they will do so in practice.

Victoria has recorded 22,429 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths as authorities begin handing out millions of rapid antigen tests to essential workers and vulnerable people.

The new infections confirmed by the health department on Monday include 12,059 from PCR tests and 10,370 from RATs.

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It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 245,040, including a record 1,229 patients in hospital.

Monday’s patient number is a 115 increase on the 1,114 reported on Sunday.

The number of people in ICU has grown by seven to 129 with 38 on ventilation, three more than the previous day.

The figures come as the state government on Sunday received three million of the 44 million RATs it ordered.

Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters the three million tests will be distributed to essential workers in health and aged care, disability and emergency sectors.

Victorians with pre-existing conditions, which make them susceptible to severe illness, will also be prioritised for a RAT.

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Peak not passed but plateau ahead, Greg Hunt says

It’s too early to tell if the peak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been reached but signs are pointing to a plateau, Health Minister Greg Hunt says.

Mr Hunt told ABC radio national on Monday he had received advice from chief medical officer Paul Kelly there were “clear signs” NSW and the ACT were seeing a plateau in the number of cases and hospitalisations.

But he said it was still too early to call the peak of the wave.

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He said the government was preparing for possible future waves by securing more vaccination doses and treatments.

“I would like to see, and it’s something Moderna is working on, is the capacity to have combined flu and COVID-19 shots as we go forward,” he said.

“That won’t happen immediately but it is something being prepared.”

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Meanwhile Australia’s consumer watchdog says it is concerned about continued price gouging on rapid antigen test kits.

The ACCC has analysed more than 1,800 reports of price hikes on the essential item since December 25, and is now averaging close to 150 reports a day.

Chairman Rod Sims says at the extreme end the watchdog had seen “outrageous” reports of tests costing up to $500 for two online and more than $70 per test at convenience stores, service stations and independent supermarkets.

On data available to the ACCC so far, suppliers and intermediate suppliers say wholesale prices are between $3.95 and $11.45 per test, depending on the type of test and volumes purchased.

“There are several businesses that have repeatedly come to our notice thanks to the information provided by the public,” Mr Sims said in a statement.

“We are asking those businesses to urgently explain the prices they are charging.”

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Almost three-quarters of Australians say RATs should be free, while more than half believe governments have failed to adequately plan over the past two years to deal with challenges that have been thrown up by Omicron.

A survey by the Australian Institute found 72 per cent of respondents believe the federal government should provide RATs free to everyone, including two-thirds of coalition voters.

Just 16 per cent believe retailers should continue to sell them to individuals.

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