Saturday, March 2, 2024
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As Covid cases surge – let’s get protected

The World Health Organisation says that 7.9 billion people are still living through Covid-19, thousands are still dying from Covid-19 every week, and at least 1 in 10 people with Covid-19 get long-Covid, which can cause lingering health problems.

Across Australia case numbers are surging. Hospitalisation numbers too.

In NSW, chief health officer Kerry Chant has begged people to start wearing masks again amid complaints mask rules are rarely observed on public transport.

But so far, there’s no mandate.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has warned that making rapid antigen tests (RATs) widely available for vulnerable groups on low incomes is essential in tackling Covid-19 across Australia.

Its warning was issued in response to the Federal Government’s announcement that the Covid-19 Rapid Test Concessional Access Program providing 10 free rapid antigen tests every three months for concession card holders would not be extended beyond July 2022.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said the move would put vulnerable people at greater risk and make the task of limiting community transmission of Covid-19 potentially more challenging.

“We must keep in mind that $8 is a considerable expense for many people … When you factor in that someone may have to take multiple tests over numerous days you can see how it quickly becomes unaffordable.

“If people can’t access RATs, our entire health system will come under even more immense pressure. In order to access pathways of clinical care for Covid-19 in the community, including recently expanded antiviral treatments, it is necessary to have a positive test. Determining whether an individual is Covid-19-positive also helps to stop the spread of the disease in workplaces and in the broader community. Remember too, if someone is uncertain as to whether they have Covid-19, their close contacts are at greater risk of spreading the virus.”

Previously, it was thought that if you got Covid you could not be reinfected for 12 weeks but, with the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, reinfection time can be as little as four weeks.

These highly transmissible subvariants along with projected increases in case and hospitalisation numbers prompted the mid-July recommendation from the NSW Government that everyone aged 50 years and over receive a second vaccine booster dose*. People aged 30 years and over are now also eligible to receive an additional winter booster if they want to.

An Australian-first Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness study, led by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, has found that the receipt of a booster dose provided 65 per cent greater protection against hospitalisation and death compared to only two doses, with the results especially significant for people aged 70 years and older.

If you’ve been hesitant about getting your booster, it’s worth talking to your GP now and reconsidering it.

As much as we might have become comfortable with the “new normal” of no masks and little social distancing – it is time (again) to recalibrate.

The World Health Organisation says: Your health is precious. Protect yourself and others by taking these six simple steps:

  1. Get vaccinated
  2. Keep a safe distance
  3. Wear a mask
  4. Cover sneezes/coughs
  5. Open windows
  6. Clean your hands.

It is up to us to stop the spread.

_______________

*Second booster / fourth dose

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