A sudden surge in Covid cases has sparked calls to bring back lockdown-style restrictions – but the demands have triggered a furious backlash.
The number of infections in Queensland and Victoria soared by 60 per cent last week as the use of masks was again recommended, while a 40 per cent increase in NSW prompted a dire warning from chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant.
Health chiefs now fear the new Covid wave could once again wreck Christmas plans for millions unless precautions are brought in now, and the Australian Medical Association has called for a return to working from home.
‘We do hope it calms down before Christmas,’ Dr Chant said. ‘Now is the time to take protective measures.’
But the move to bring back restrictions has fuelled outrage among fed-up Australians who want to put the pre-vaccine pandemic nightmare behind them.
2GB’s Ben Fordham (pictured with wife Jodie Speers) has slammed calls to bring back lockdown-style restrictions as Covid case numbers surge
‘Australia has moved on,’ stormed 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Monday. ‘We know the risks. We are protecting the most vulnerable.
‘But we’re not prepared to curl up in a ball and suck our thumb every time this happens.’
Official Covid case numbers are now only released weekly rather than daily and the latest NSW figures shot up on Friday by 7,350 from 12,450 to 19,800, sparking Dr Chant’s ominous warnings.
She now recommends masks in crowded, indoor settings, and hosting gatherings outside or with doors and windows open.
Queensland’s chief medical officer Dr John Gerrard said the current wave could peak in the week before Christmas and warned the cycle of Covid waves could go on ‘for years’.
The Australian Medication Association has gone even further, with NSW AMA President Dr Michael Bonning wanting a return to working from home.
‘I can confirm we are entering the fourth wave of Covid,’ said Dr Chant.
The number of Covid infections in Queensland and Victoria soared by 60 per cent last week and by 40 per cent in NSW
The surging numbers sparked a dire warning from NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant (left) about the impact on Christmas plans, while Queensland’s chief health officer Dr John Gerrard (right) has recommended the return of masks
‘The wave is taking off with some trajectory, it will be quite a steep wave and hopefully the decline will be equally as steep.
‘That’s why it’s important the community takes these protective measures now and I can’t stress the urgency — if you’re going to get vaccinated do it immediately.
‘There is a sense that the wave may well peak before Christmas and we may be on the decline.
‘But the message is clear – this is an increased risk period for COVID so please now is the time to take those protective behaviours.’
ABC medical expert Dr Norman Swan says the extent of the current outbreak could be even bigger.
He said the current numbers were under-reporting as a result of people not testing, rapid antigen tests failing to diagnose the latest Omicron variant and people contracting the disease without showing symptoms.
Queensland’s chief medical officer Dr John Gerrard said the current wave could peak in the week before Christmas and warned the cycle of Covid waves could go on ‘for years’ (pictured, medics in full PPE in Melbourne in 2020)
ABC medical expert Dr Norman Swan says the extent of the current outbreak could be even bigger
‘The data is not reliable because it’s voluntary – and the rapid antigen tests with the current variants are slow to become positive,’ he told Radio National on Monday.
‘You can rely on much more hospitalisations – and hospitalisations are on the way up. The worry is that we will see another surge in deaths.’
But the doomsday predictions have infuriated many who fear the devastating loss of their livelihoods once again in yet another lockdown.
‘We seem to be in a bit of a cycle of self sabotage,’ raged Ben Fordham on his Monday morning 2GB show.
‘There are people who are determined to keep us hidden under the bed.
‘The Australian Medical Association wants us to work from home again. Seriously, some people haven’t been to work for the best part of three years.
‘We’re only starting to see some of them back in the office and the AMA wants to send them home again.
‘This attitude has had a devastating impact on small businesses that rely on foot traffic and the AMA wants it to happen all over again.’
Ben Foprdham slammed the Australian Medical Association for advocating a return to working from home (pictured, Melbourne’s CBD during lockdown in October 2021)
He hailed infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon for ‘keeping a level head’ and opposing work from home mandates.
The professor told the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘It flattens the curve basically, which is not a bad idea, but one has to balance this against the social and economic effects as well.
‘Are we going to live like hermits for the next five to 10 years?’
Fordham added: ‘Well thank God for Professor Peter Collignon – this is what we want to hear. We need a dose of common sense mixed in amongst all the doom and gloom.
‘We know that Coronavirus isn’t going anywhere. We have learned to live with the virus and we must continue to do so.
‘Now is not the time to run and hide when more than 95 per cent have been vaccinated. More than 70 per cent have had three doses. Five million have had a fourth dose.
‘The public will not cop a return to restrictions in the lead up to Christmas.’
Health chiefs now fear the new Covid wave could once again wreck Christmas plans for millions unless precautions are brought in now (pictured, Sydneysiders enjoy a picnic in 2021)
Meanwhile 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
Victoria’s Covid case numbers have surged from 10,226 to 16,350 in just seven days, heralding the latest wave and sparking fears of yet another Melbourne lockdown after already enduring the longest Covid curfews in the world.
Testing has revealed two new Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and XBB are fuelling the latest spread of the virus.
But Victoria chief health officer Brett Sutton admitted the latest surge may be milder than previous waves, despite 41 Covid-related deaths in his state in the last week.
‘There is currently no evidence to suggest these subvariants cause more severe disease,’ he said.
‘However, hospitalisation rates are likely increasing due to waning immunity from past vaccination and the ability of these new subvariants to escape immunity from past infection.
‘As we are in a well-established wave, increasing community and public health actions will reduce transmission and the impact on illness, deaths and the health system.’
Victoria chief health officer Brett Sutton admitted the latest surge may be milder than previous waves, despite 41 Covid-related deaths in his state in the last week
He outlined a six point plan for locals in the latest outbreak, including wearing a mask, being in well-ventilated spaces when indoors, getting vaccine boosters, getting tested and staying home if you test positive.
He added: ‘Protecting yourself is the best way to protect your family and community. If you don’t get Covid, you can’t spread Covid.’
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews insisted he had no plans to bring back the crippling restrictions that locked down his state over the past two years and said it was time to ‘move beyond’ them
However Victorian Premier Dan Andrews insisted he had no plans to bring back the crippling restrictions that locked down his state over the past two years and said it was time to ‘move beyond’ them.
‘As Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly has made it very clear, this era of COVID exceptionalism has to end, and it has,’ he said last week.
‘Victorians know what to do with this – they’ve done it and they’ve done it so well over these last three years.
‘There will be fluctuations in case numbers. Every government in the country has factored in that COVID will be with us in one form or another for quite a long time.
‘But we are treating it in a different way now because you’ve got to move beyond this.’