Greg Hunt backs Australia’s pandemic response despite spiking cases and complaints of ambulance ramping

The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, says he is optimistic about the declining effect of the pandemic in Australia, saying the country’s response to Covid has beaten expectations, despite increasing complaints of ambulance ramping across several states.

The nation on Sunday recorded seven virus deaths and more than 40,400 new cases, while almost 2,100 patients were in hospital with 102 in intensive care and 21 on ventilation, according to state and territory figures.

Hunt, who’s retiring at the upcoming federal election, believes Australia remains in an enviable position globally.

“We are a stronger and a better country than many acknowledge,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

“The resilience of Australians, the fact that we have had one of the lowest rates of loss of life in the world, one of the highest vaccination rates.”

Hunt said the federal government, the general population and thousands of nurses, doctors, pathologists and health sector workers had helped the country bounce back from Covid.

His comments come after the number of new Covid infections across Australia rose by 37% in a week, linked to the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.

The Covid outbreak has also intensified ramping at hospitals, particularly in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.

Paramedics are planning industrial action against the NSW government on Monday by refusing to leave their posts to fill gaps at other ambulance stations.

The 24-hour action is part of ongoing union efforts to improve emergency responder staffing and pay.

“We’re taking action to demand a better resourced service. We want a fairer workplace for paramedics, and improved coverage and care for our communities,” Australian Paramedics Association NSW president, Chris Kastelan, said on Sunday.

The union is pushing for an additional 1,500 paramedics that it says are needed to turn around deteriorating ambulance response times across the state.

It also wants a pandemic payment, and a pay rise of more than 2.5%.

Meanwhile in South Australia, a new Labor government has been elected partly after pledging to cut ramping times.

Incoming premier, Peter Malinaukas, will soon meet senior health officials and police commissioner Grant Stevens to discuss the state’s health advice after winning the election on Saturday.

He also intends to amend SA’s laws that impose restrictions and other measures including mask mandates, lockdowns and density limits.

“The act is not fit for purpose for a global pandemic that lasts for two years,” Malinaukas said.

In Victoria, the state government will offer subsidised and free TAFE courses to people looking to work in healthcare and other in-demand jobs.

The premier, Daniel Andrews, said the pandemic had highlighted the importance of healthcare skills, as well as causing many people to reconsider their careers.

“If you want a job that really matters then now is the time to make a change,” he said on Sunday.

The 10,000 extra TAFE places announced will cost about $61.6m and won’t be limited to healthcare courses.

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