Publications & Reports

Estimating the proportion of Victorians infected with COVID-19 during the Omicron BA.1 epidemic wave of January 2022 in Australia.

Altermatt A, Heath K, Saich F, Wilkinson AL, Scott N, Sacks-Davis R, Young K, Stoové M, Gibney KB, Hellard M
Disease Elimination, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Electronic address: [email protected]


OBJECTIVE: To estimate the proportion of Victorians infected with COVID-19 in January 2022. METHODS: Between 11-19 February 2022 we conducted a nested cross-sectional survey on experiences of COVID-19 testing, symptoms, test outcome and barriers to testing during January 2022 in Victoria, Australia. Respondents were participants of the Optimise Study, a prospective cohort of adults considered at increased risk of COVID-19 or the unintended consequences of COVID-19-related interventions. RESULTS: Of the 577 participants, 78 (14%) reported testing positive to COVID-19, 240 (42%) did not test in January 2022 and 91 of those who did not test (38%) reported COVID-19-like symptoms. Using two different definitions of symptoms, we calculated symptomatic (27% and 39%) and asymptomatic (4% and 11%) test positivity. We extrapolated these positivity rates to participants who did not test and estimated 19-22% of respondents may have had COVID-19 infection in January 2022. CONCLUSION: The proportion of Victorians infected with COVID-19 in January 2022 was likely considerably higher than officially reported numbers. IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: Our estimate is approximately double the COVID-19 case numbers obtained from official case reporting. This highlights a major limitation of diagnosis data that must be considered when preparing for future waves of infection.

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