What new Covid wave means for Christmas
As a fresh wave of Covid-19 is recognised in the community, especially in two states, here’s how it may affect the upcoming holiday season.
Queenslanders are being asked by doctors to mask up once again at public gatherings, hospitals and on flights.
An eighth wave of COVID-19 has officially hit the state.
Reports released Wednesday reveal Queensland’s hospital system is under pressure with COVID-19 and hospitalisations have more than tripled since the start of the outbreak.
There are more than 245 people in hospital with the virus, up from 75 at the beginning of October.
The Queensland Australian Medical Association president hit out at Queensland Health in response, accusing them of not being transparent enough with the public about this current wave.
On Thursday, it was also revealed there’d been an outbreak of the virus in a Northern Territory aged care facility, while cases were also reported rising in NSW and Western Australia.
While the public health emergency relating to Covid is done and dusted, medical experts agree the pandemic is still a major issue, especially with widespread vaccination softening the individual impact of the illness and breeding complacency.
While all Australians are being urged to take steps to protect themselves from new strains of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus, South Australia and Queensland have been identified as epicentres of the latest outbreaks.
The Sunshine State is about four weeks into their latest wave, prompting the state’s health department to front the media on Wednesday.
It was during that conference that chief health officer John Gerrard said he would not be recommending the state return to mask mandates because that response would be “disproportionate”.
“I am making no general recommendation about mask wearing in public or in healthcare facilities; that would be disproportionate to the level of risk,” Dr Gerrard said.
“If I were to recommend general mask wearing, people would not follow it because it would be disproportionate. I am not going to do that.”
Australian Medical Association Queensland branch president Maria Boulton said more than 220 people had been hospitalised with Covid in the state, and she was concerned for vulnerable members of the community.
“There’s a lot of Queenslanders who are eligible for a vaccine booster and they haven’t had one … we just want this to be a safe, happy, and healthy festive season – we don’t want to see an increase in hospitalisation,” Dr Boulton said.
She said it was hard to tell how much Covid was in the community because fewer people were testing, as vaccination gave people a far milder illness from the virus.
“Ask any healthcare worker, we’re all tired of Covid … the reality is it never went away, we’re on an eighth wave now. It doesn’t matter how complacent or tired of Covid we are, the numbers are increasing,” Dr Boulton said.
Meanwhile, SA health authorities said while Covid hospitalisations were steady, with an average of 30 people a week admitted with the virus, they expected that number to rise.
SA chief health officer Nicola Spurrier said people should be taking measures to protect others.
“I strongly recommend if you have a family member living in residential aged care, and they haven’t had a vaccination or a Covid infection in the last six months, to speak to their aged care provider and support them to have another booster dose this week,” Professor Spurrier said.
Compounding issues in SA was the arrival of the cruise liner Princess Cruise at Port Adelaide on Monday that had a rumoured outbreak on-board.
Despite the rising cases, there are a number of measures state and territory health authorities agree on to help prevent the spread as people begin moving around the country during the Christmas holidays.
The key advice is for vulnerable people – those aged 65 or older or those with compromised immune systems – to get a Covid vaccine booster if they’re yet to have one so far in 2023.
COVID-19 transmission continues to increase in NSW, with community transmission now moderate to high.
Do you need to refresh your COVID-safe behaviours to stop the spread of illness and protect others? pic.twitter.com/eADi6MaGtN
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) November 15, 2023
Although no jurisdiction is yet to impose any sort of mask mandate, people are being urged to abide by any requests to wear masks in medical facilities.
Dr Boulton said their directions needed to be listened to.
“We especially don’t want any aggressive behaviours to our healthcare workers,” Dr Boulton said.
“They already put up with so much and deserve all the respect we can give them.”
The same goes for individuals who choose to wear a mask in public, or request others wear masks in their homes, with their wishes to be respected without harassment.
Those who feel unwell should stay home from work so they don’t spread the illness and get tested to confirm if they have Covid.
Those eligible for oral antivirals are also encouraged to start taking them as soon as they display symptoms, as that’s when they’re most effective.