SYDNEY (AP) – Australia on Wednesday saw an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and long queues at testing centers as it continued to fight the rapid spread of the virus in most states.

The country has recorded more than 64,000 cases, up from 47,000 a day earlier, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has virtually met with the National Cabinet – the leaders of Australia’s states and territories – to discuss how to respond to the almost daily records in new cases and increasing pressure. on hospitals.

Morrison is facing growing calls to make rapid antigen testing available for free in some cases to relieve pressure on PCR testing centers, many of which have been forced to close after reaching capacity. People who have been tested often face long waits for results from overloaded labs.

New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, on Wednesday recorded a record 35,054 new cases as it awaits the arrival of 50 million rapid antigen tests ordered by the state government.

State Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet urged residents not to search for PCR tests unless necessary, adding that the arrival of rapid test kits expected next week “would help considerably”.

Political cartoons about world leaders

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Victoria State has reported 17,636 cases, a state record, and Queensland has 6,871 cases.

The number of cases does not necessarily reflect the true spread of the virus as they only count the number of cases recorded.

Nationwide hospitalizations stood at 2,990 as of Wednesday, with 196 patients in intensive care. Both figures were higher than the day before, when 2,684 hospitalizations were recorded, with 183 people in intensive care.

Morrison reiterated his position Wednesday that the federal government will not make rapid antigenic tests available free of charge, despite mounting pressure to do so.

“What we’re focusing on is making sure the tests are there for those who need them for health reasons,” Morrison told reporters.

Morrison said the rapid test kits were facing supply issues and the federal and state governments had been trying since August to obtain tests in large numbers and had acquired around 160 million.

“We will overcome this challenge as we have overcome all challenges thanks to COVID, which has put us in a situation where Australia has one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and vaccination rates the highest of any country in the world, ”Morrison said. .

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