Australian medical institute calls for restart of COVID-19 precautions

SYDNEY, June 23 (Xinhua) — Researchers at one of Australia’s most prominent medical institutes have called on the government to reassess COVID-19 strategies as the spread of Omicron continues to cause major individual and systemic disruptions.

According to the latest data from Australia’s Department of Health, the country reported nearly 8 million cases and more than 9,500 deaths as of June 22.

32,982 new COVID cases were registered nationwide on Wednesday and 3,022 people are in hospital, 103 of whom are in intensive care.

In an editorial published Thursday, director and CEO of the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health (Burnet Institute) Brendan Crabb and epidemiologist Mike Toole called for a return to stricter measures to reduce virus transmission.

The first cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant were discovered in Australia late last year, but policymakers, counting on the virus to be less severe and allow those infected to boost their immunity, went ahead with the national reopening.

Since then, COVID-19 health measures have been phased out and mask mandates at some Australian airports were scrapped last week.

Crabb and Toole said the return to normal life was the wrong message to the public, given the reality of the current state of the pandemic in Australia.

More than 7 million cases of COVID-19 have been registered in Australia this year, far more than in the previous two years, they wrote.

“Tens of thousands have been sick enough to go to hospital and there have been 8,000 COVID deaths.”

In addition, the researchers said that as a result of the constant evolution of the virus, people’s immunity in the past did not hold up, leading to repeated, no less mild, infections.

Crabb and Toole not only suggested stepping up efforts on topical vaccinations, but also suggested reintroducing high-performance N95/P2 masks into high-risk indoor environments and investing in improving indoor air quality.

They added that there is a need to increase awareness and access for COVID-19 viral treatments approved in Australia, such as Paxlovid.

On Wednesday, Australia’s federal health minister, Mark Butler, said too many elderly Australians were dying from COVID-19 and only 50,000 of the government’s stock of 1.3 million Paxlovid treatments had been used.

“Our research indicates that the vast majority of the Australian population is not aware that these treatments exist,” Butler said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“Our Omicron experience and the underlying science both scream that the current high-transmission situation is unsustainable,” said Crabb and Toole.

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