Health experts say the feds mishandled Covid-19

The double whammy of flu season and the Covid-19 pandemic has left many health experts in Australia worried about how we will get through the next two months.

While the northern hemisphere had its own battle with Covid-19 during its winter – and is now facing the BA sub-variants of Omicron. 4 and BA. 5 like Australia – looks like we could be in for a tougher fight.

Cases are on the rise in 110 countries, leading to an overall increase in global infections of more than 20% and more deaths, according to molecular virologist Vinod Balasubramaniam from Monash University in Malaysia.

Although they are similar to other Omicron sub-variants, BA. 4 and BA. 5 have mutations in their spike proteins that allow them to more easily infect human cells.

Additionally, the natural decline in vaccine protection and many countries lifting restrictions means the virus is likely to spread more easily.

How does Australia’s winter situation compare to that of the UK and Europe in general?

Gaetan Burgio of the Australian National University told NCA NewsWire that while Europe went through a similar surge in winter with the Omicron strain, the scenario was not comparable to Australia’s situation.

“In January, coverage of the third dose of vaccine was just 30% in Europe compared to currently over 70% in Australia,” he said.

“While the vaccine coverage for the fourth dose is around 16-17%, which is quite low, the BA variants. 4 and BA. 5 are more transmissible in a declining immunity scenario…which is happening in Europe right now.

“While in Australia we are not quite in a similar scenario to Europe in January, the infection is increasing significantly to around 50,000 a day and there is still a possibility that the number of cases will increase significantly. .”

Hassan Vally, an associate professor of epidemiology at Deakin University, told NCA NewsWire there was no doubt Australia was entering extremely difficult times.

“We are not yet at the peak of infections and our health systems are already feeling the strain,” he said.

“Europe and the UK have both experienced similar challenges over their winter, and it’s clear that we’re going to have to do everything we can to slow the transmission of the virus during this difficult time.”

Is the “let it go” approach dangerous?

Dr Burgio said complacency and a let-it-rip approach were not the best ways to fight the virus.

“While I am tired of mask mandates and social distancing, a really important and devastating consequence of infection is long Covid,” he said.

“While the prevalence of long Covid is still unclear and debated, the burden is enormous for those affected and their families.

“We also need to be more proactive in protecting the vulnerable population, for example in aged care facilities or immunocompromised people.”

Dr Burgio said the carefree approach seen in other countries had been devastating, with more than 180,000 deaths and more than two million long cases of Covid in the UK alone.

Dr Vally said Australia is not letting it tear itself apart and never has, but people need to take responsibility individually and as a community.

“We need to put into practice everything we’ve learned over the past two years, including practicing social distancing where we can, wearing high-quality masks, practicing good hygiene, avoiding crowds and working from home there. where we can,” he said. .

“Most important of all, we need to make sure we are up to date with our Covid vaccinations and if you are eligible for a booster, now is the time to get it.”

Dr. Balasubramaniam told NCA NewsWire that the let it rip approach was not based on science, but on a false sense of security that current variants were just milder versions of previous strains and that it was just another flu.

“Although the risk of hospitalization and death of Omicron for those vaccinated is lower than that of the Delta variant, it is not zero,” he said.

“The widely confirmed debilitating effects of the long Covid should erase all misconceptions, let it tear notions from our minds.”

More than one in three people have “persistent post-Covid symptoms” up to six months after contracting the virus, it added, according to a University of Oxford study.

“Experts have identified up to 200 long-term side effects associated with Covid, affecting 10 different organ systems,” he said.

Is the government taking the situation seriously enough?

Dr Burgio said he would have liked to see a mask mandate introduced.

“I found the federal government’s position disappointing,” he said.

“Covid is transmitted through the air and masks are effective against transmission of the virus.”

But he said lockdowns would not be effective for this outbreak except in aged care facilities.

Dr Balasubramaniam agreed that the government should enforce mask mandates, at least in crowded indoor public places, to reduce community transmission.

Dr Vally said the issue of mask mandates was an emotionally charged topic.

“The assumptions of some of those advocating this are that mask-wearing alone can do the heavy lifting over the next few months, and the only way we’ll achieve high rates of mask-wearing is if it’s mandatory. “, did he declare.

“While it’s unclear which is the best way forward, I believe mask-wearing alone cannot get us through these next few months.”

Can our hospitals cope with this new wave?

Dr Vally said hospitals were definitely going to be stretched over the next few months.

But Dr Burgio said looking at the data, the number of hospitalizations and intensive care admissions was half of what we saw in January.

“As the health system is better prepared after two and a half years of the pandemic, I am convinced that hospitals will be able to cope with this new wave,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ll see an overflow of patients.”

Dr Balasubramaniam said while everyone was tired of the pandemic, now was not the time to become complacent.

“The pandemic is not over and these new subvariants are concerning,” he said.

“It is likely that the Covid-19 virus will be with us for a few years to come.”

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Edward L. Robinett