Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly joins us now. Good morning to you. How concerned are you by these figures?
Good morning Nat. We are concerned. All of the indications we have at the moment is that we are entering a new wave of the Omicron virus. This is the third wave we've had. You’ll remember back in January, a large wave, another one over the last few months which has settled. And now this new BA.4 or BA.5 variant is upon us here in Australia.
We are expecting a wave of cases and hospitalisations over the next few weeks. We have noticed that the ICU rate has continued to be flat and that's a good sign. But we're prepared for all of those issues in the coming weeks.
And one of the things we've done in the last few days is to increase the availability of the treatments, the oral treatments, very effective for people that are at more risk of getting severe disease from stopping them getting to hospital or even decreasing their chance of death from COVID.
We've increased the availability of fourth doses of vaccine and really encouraged people to look about where they're up to with their vaccine journey down to encourage them to go forward and get that extra dose if you’re due.
And then the third thing is reissuing our advice on masks and making sure people are using those indoors now to protect themselves, their family, the loved ones and the community.
Okay, let's talk about hospital first because we're seeing admissions go up around the country. We've just heard the AMA say today that they're worried that people with COVID are going to have delayed care. Can our system cope with this?
We from very early on in the pandemic we really look to increase our ability to cope with this pandemic. We've done it before. We will do it again. And again, we can all help this. This is not just up to the governments, but also individuals that can actually make these important choices. If you are eligible now and with that widened eligibility of the treatments, go and have that chat with your GP this week and have your treatment plan ready and available. So if you do get come down with the virus in the coming weeks, you know exactly what to do and where to get those treatments.
If you are now eligible for an extra dose of vaccine, and I would absolutely encourage those who have not taken up that third dose of vaccine to do so right away, because two doses is not enough for this Omicron wave and if you're due for a fourth dose, go and get that.
And so these are the ways that we can work together to decrease that wave and to help us to cope with that inevitable increase in hospitalisations.
Because it feels like our health system is being hit with the problem a lot of industries are being hit with across the country. We're seeing the airports are struck today, a lack of staff.
People are sick. They can't get staff, for instance. In Queensland I've got over 2000 people off sick. Is that why it's going to be harder possibly this time round to cope for the hospital system?
So certainly it's a double whammy, if you like, in terms of the effect of this virus. It's not only about people actually getting sick, but for people caring with caring for them as well, whether that be in hospitals, in aged care or indeed in the wider community.
And so again, I think taking all of those things I talked about and doing that now together we can flatten the curve. You remember that from early on in the in the pandemic. I think this is another time where we should all be working together to do that. Wear a mask if you're indoors, if you are eligible for treatments, go find out about that from your GP now because that will decrease your chance of having severe disease.
And again, vaccination can protect individually as well as the community is. So all of these things are really important for everyone to take on board this week.
How worried are you about complacency? For instance, what percentage protection does a mask give you if you're trying to not get COVID?
I'm not going to into individual percentages. All I can say is that there's a range of measures which I've talked about now today and where all of us increasing that messaging over the coming week and weeks, where many small things can work together.
And so masks, we know they do protect people from the virus. It also stops the transmission of the virus. Very important component. Second of all, treatments and vaccines, that's how we decrease that severity of illness.
And so those two things are really important.
Okay, Professor Paul Kelly, thank you very much for joining us today.