Covid-19 fourth wave not cause for concern as experts hit out against fearmongers

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Top doctors have told Australians it’s time to move on from Covid panic, despite Queensland introducing ‘ridiculous’ new mask advice and the national broadcaster bombarding the country with endless messages about the latest wave of the virus. 

The country is entering its fourth wave of Covid with sub-variants BQ.1 and XBB slowly taking over BA.5 and becoming the dominant strain.

Queensland changed its Covid traffic light system from green to amber on Thursday recommending face masks be worn in some settings, while the ABC’s health guru Dr Norman Swan says deaths will rise.

But the latest developments have prompted a swift response from Australia’s top doctors, who are calling for calm from residents urging them to continue life as normal.

Former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth has declined to talk about the latest wave because it is time to ‘move on’ from the pandemic, while Deakin University epidemiology chair Catherine Bennett said ‘being fearful isn’t the answer’.

Covid-19 fourth wave not cause for concern as experts hit out against fearmongers

Australians have been told it is time to move on from Covid as fearmongers continue to try and raise fears about the latest wave of the pandemic

Former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth has declined to talk about the latest wave because it is time to 'move on' from the pandemic

Former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth has declined to talk about the latest wave because it is time to ‘move on’ from the pandemic

‘Get on and do your normal things,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.

‘Panic never helps is my view. Being aware of risk changing and responding to that, and managing it, is the best thing you can do.’

Professor Bennett acknowledged residents should be mindful of the latest wave.

‘We are seeing numbers, particularly hospitalisations, push up across country,’ she said.

‘We know from data from overseas, adding Covid variants into the mix, pushes up transmission rates. What it means for individuals is that their exposure risk goes up.’

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Professor Bennett said it was important residents listened to the advice from health professionals, received their booster, but not to make drastic changes to their lives.

‘This is exactly when we want people to be aware of the changed risk of catching the virus, and use that information to manage their own risk,’ she said.

‘Maybe consider sitting outside of a cafe, instead of inside of one, or wear a face mask when catching public transport.’

Queensland increased its Covid protocols with residents advised to wear face masks on public transport and test frequently for the virus if they have flu-like symptoms.

The XBB strain has been described by some international experts as the ‘nightmare variant’ and the ‘most vaccine-resistant yet’. 

Professor Bennett reassured residents while transmission rates will increase, the new Covid strains did not appear to be more severe than their predecessors.

Dr Swan touched on public concerns rapid antigen tests were less effective at detecting certain strains of the virus

Dr Swan touched on public concerns rapid antigen tests were less effective at detecting certain strains of the virus

Professor Bennett said it was important residents listened to the advice from health professionals, received their booster, but not to make drastic changes to their lives

Professor Bennett said it was important residents listened to the advice from health professionals, received their booster, but not to make drastic changes to their lives

‘Overseas, the picture is reassuring. Countries didn’t see the same impact on hospitals as previous waves when transmission rates were pushed by BQ.1,’ she said.

Her comments came as ABC goes into overdrive with an endless stream of articles about the latest wave of the virus.

The broadcaster’s cheif health correspondent, Dr Norman Swan, said Australia had moved ‘into the next wave’ and warned of even further deaths.

‘[Cases are] going up, Victoria and NSW 20 per cent in the last week, South Australia 27 per cent, Tasmania 40 per cent,’ he told RN Breakfast on Friday. 

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‘It’s really hard to tell the death statistics at the moment, sadly they will follow.’

Dr Swan touched on public concerns rapid antigen tests were less effective at detecting certain strains of the virus.

It came as Queensland recommended residents to take a test every two days if they are living with someone who has tested positive to Covid.

‘Some US data suggests that indeed with Omicron, the performance of RAT tests did go down,’ Dr Swan said.

‘It’s anecdotally what you hear from the community. Negative, negative, negative, and then you’re fed up and you go and get a PCR, and the PCR’s positive.

Most Australian states and territories are holding the line on mask-wearing with NSW premier Dominic Perrottet saying authorities are looking to health experts to get the balance right

Most Australian states and territories are holding the line on mask-wearing with NSW premier Dominic Perrottet saying authorities are looking to health experts to get the balance right

‘This is a huge issue, and with BQ.1 and XBB, we really do need to know what the performance level is and which brands do better than others’.

Meanwhile, Queensland’s chief health officer John Gerrard says there is no need for alarm and Queensland will not return to forced mask mandates.

‘We are entering another wave here in Queensland as in other states of Australia, and this is not unexpected, but these waves will probably go on for some months or even longer,’ Dr Gerrard told ABC Radio on Friday.

He said said the wave’s peak was expected within weeks.

‘The duration of these waves is unclear … we believe the peak will certainly be before Christmas, some time early in December.’

Dr Gerrard said while precautions were necessary, people should continue their daily routines.

‘This is just the means of communication of what is happening with COVID in the community, and this will be going on for months or even years, so people need to get on with their lives.

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‘But one very specific most important message and that is that people need to be up to date with their vaccinations.’

Victorian Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan also said there has been no change to health advice in the state, despite a 62 per cent uptick in cases over the past week (stock image)

Victorian Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan also said there has been no change to health advice in the state, despite a 62 per cent uptick in cases over the past week (stock image)

Most Australian states and territories are holding the line on mask-wearing with NSW premier Dominic Perrottet saying authorities are looking to health experts to get the balance right.

‘We do advise people when you’re visiting aged care facilities to wear masks and in hospitals,’ Mr Perrottet told Sydney radio 2GB on Friday.

‘Here in NSW, we’re open and free.’

Victorian Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan also said there has been no change to health advice in the state, despite a 62 per cent uptick in cases over the past week.

But the government did say face masks remain a low-cost and highly effective tool to help reduce transmission.

‘It is a timely reminder,’ Ms Allen told reporters on Friday.

‘Doesn’t matter whether you’ve got the cold, the flu or COVID it just makes sense to stay home if you’re sick.’

The Northern Territory is ‘strongly’ encouraging, but no longer requiring, residents to get tested if they feel unwell. Face masks are still recommended in indoor settings.

University of South Australia biostatistics chair Professor Adrian Esterman said a mix of waning immunity and few public health measures was driving the new wave.

‘Many people have had their last dose of vaccine over six months ago and by now have comparatively little protection against symptomatic disease,’ Prof Esterman said.

‘The onus is now on the other states and territories to follow Queensland’s lead and upgrade their health advice.’

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