There are renewed calls for mask mandates in Australia as Covid cases rise across the nation and take hold in a third of aged care homes.
Australia’s Covid death toll surpassed 11,000, rising by 36 on Sunday, with thousands of new cases reported.
Epidemiologist and former World Health Organisation advisor professor Adrian Esterman said state and territory governments needed ‘to be persuaded’ to bring back mask mandates or cases and deaths would keep going up.
There are calls to bring back mandatory mask wearing as Covid cases surge in Australia
‘What we need is vaccination plus some other strategies,’ he told the Nine network.
Most states and territories are advocating mask use indoors or when social distancing is not possible but have not imposed mandates.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese conceded some Australians might be confused about the latest advice for wearing face masks.
‘The issue of mandates, of course, is a matter for (which) state and territory governments have been responsible,’ the prime minister said on Sunday.
The hyper-infectious nature of the Omicron sub-variants is sparking Covid concerns worldwide.
The prestigious British Medical Journal published a piece by senior doctors stating the UK’s National Health Service is ‘not living with Covid-19, it’s dying from it’.
Former World Health Organisation advisor professor Adrian Esterman says vaccines alone won’t bring down Covid cases and called for a return to mask mandates
Professor Esterman said if the governments wouldn’t act, people should take personal measures to cut transmission such as mask wearing.
‘I think the least we can do is to get much better messaging to the general public,’ he said.
Doctors also warned about the debilitating effects, particularly for women, of long Covid cases.
New research found five per cent of Australians who are infected with Covid develop the condition.
At Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital, the long Covid clinic already has a four-month wait to see patients, with the majority being young, previously fit, and many women.
Research showed women were 22 per cent more likely than men to develop the condition.
Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute executive director Jason Kovacic said the projected impacts of long Covid were ‘sobering, staggering numbers’.
‘The 55,000 people in Australia who tested positive today… equates to 2000 to 3000 new cases of long Covid,’ he told The Age.
Professor Kovacic estimated this meant half a million people would suffer long-term effects over in the coming months.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says mask mandates are a matter for the states and territories
The prevalence of long Covid in women could effect workforces that are predominantly female such as in healthcare and education.
‘It’s no longer about our ICUs being overwhelmed with acutely unwell cases, but the very serious impacts long Covid is going to have on our community, on our hospitals, airlines, public transport, right across the board,’ he said.
Common symptoms of long Covid include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction, and general impairment of functioning.
To be classified as long Covid, the symptoms must occur for at least two months after a Covid infection and can remain constant or fluctuate over time.
Meanwhile aged care providers are also calling for urgent action to protect residents and staff from the winter Covid wave, which is hitting more than one third of the nation’s facilities.
The Aged and Community Care Providers Association said 6,000 residents and 3400 staff were infected in 1013 facilities.
The association’s interim chief executive Paul Sadler said 10-15 per cent of staff are already isolating or quarantining at home, and the coming weeks will put intense pressure on residents and workers.
‘(The association) is concerned that anywhere up to two-thirds of aged care homes could be affected by active outbreaks over coming weeks,’ he said in a statement on Sunday.
‘The increased availability in surge workforce including the Australian Defence Force over the past week has been welcome, but there is still a shortfall.
‘The reality is we can’t leave older people without adequate levels of care for too long.’
Mr Sadler said 2301 residents have died in 2022, including 114 in the past week.
A third of aged care homes in Australia are battling outbreaks among residents and staff
He called for more support for a surge workforce, including ADF personnel, until at least September.
Over the longer term, Mr Sadler said the federal government must plan to fix chronic workforce shortfalls, prepare for future outbreaks and implement reforms recommended by the recent royal commission into aged care.
‘The coming weeks are critical for aged care. We must do all we can to put the protection of older people first and support our aged care workers,’ he said.
Aged Care Minister Anika Wells recently highlighted the importance of a unified approach to preventing the further spread of the virus in the sector.
‘I enthusiastically encourage these matters to go back to national cabinet so we can get a national approach to this,’ she said.
Aged Care Minister Anika Wells wants a national approach to protect aged care homes from Covid
New South Wales recorded 12,820 new cases of the virus on Sunday.
Fourteen people have lost their lives due to COVID-19-related illness in the latest reporting period.
There are currently 2260 people in hospital across the state receiving care, with 56 of those in ICU.
Victoria recorded 9501 new cases of COVID-19.
Another 12 people have died due to the virus, and the state has 849 people undergoing hospital treatment.
Queensland has recorded 5804 new cases of COVID-19 overnight.
While no deaths were recorded in the latest period, the state has 1042 people with the virus undergoing treatment in hospital.
WA had 4356 new cases with 437 people in hospital, 23 in ICU and seven deaths, dating back to July 17.
There were 3340 new cases in SA with two deaths and 74 in hospital including 12 in ICU.
Tasmania recorded 1155 cases with two deaths and had 174 in hospital and three in ICU.
Australia’s Covid-related death toll has climbed past 11,000
The ACT had 712 cases with 155 in hospital and one in ICU. while the NT recorded 355 cases with 71 in hospital.
As of Sunday, 71.1 per cent of eligible Australians had received three or more vaccine doses.
Booster coverage includes 95.3 per cent of eligible aged care residents.
Almost 55 per cent of eligible Indigenous people have received three or more vaccine doses.
As for fourth doses, 31.5 per cent of the eligible population aged 30 and over have received a winter booster.
The Victorian government is continuing to provide free rapid antigen tests to those who are eligible with disability, extending support to some of the most vulnerable in the community until the end of September.