STEPHANIE FERRIER, CO-HOST: In other news, there are warnings this morning of an imminent surge in COVID case numbers. Australia's chief medical officer Paul Kelly joins us from Canberra. Thanks for joining us. First of all, what's the picture with the new case numbers and deaths?
PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Good morning, Stephanie, and good morning to your viewers. Yes, there has been an increase in cases across Australia. Not every state the same, but borders are open now so it's a matter of time, really. But all of our early indicators over the last week or so have demonstrated that case numbers are rising.
It's probably related to these couple of new variants that we are now seeing in Australia that have been seen around the world.
They're still in a minority but they are more transmissible, so it's likely that people will become infected, maybe reinfected. I think the situation that we have high hybrid immunity at the moment from both vaccination and previous infection will keep us protected from severe disease.
But cases are rising. And so, I'm here to talk about that and to alert people to take sensible precautions over the coming weeks.
FERRIER: And so what sort of pressure are we looking at for our hospital system?
KELLY: No pressure at the moment. There hasn't really been a rise in hospital cases to a great extent. There has been an increase in cases, particularly in Victoria and WA.
But the rest of the country not so much. Very few cases in intensive care. Only just over 40 cases on average at the moment, in the last week or so, it's really cases in the community.
And so those clear messages that we've had for some time about wearing a mask, if you feel unwell or to protect yourself in crowded situations, to get a test, particularly if you're in those vulnerable groups that that could actually have anti-viral treatment right now, particularly people over the age of 70, that's very effective if given quickly.
Now's the time to actually consider whether you are eligible and due for another dose of vaccine, whether that be a third dose or a fourth dose. There are still a large number of people that have not had a third dose. This is a chance to get that, and I think that's really the main messages we have at the moment.
FERRIER: Are you concerned with these new variants that sometimes the rats aren't that reliable at picking up positive cases? So people might be out there in the community not knowing that they actually have COVID-19?
KELLY: So rapid antigen tests are still effective against these new variants as far as we know. These are new variants only in the last few weeks and the TGA is continuing to do that testing of rapid antigen tests against different strains of the virus. And so we will keep watching that.
Of course, PCRs are still available. Mostly now and I think this is important, it's a chance if you are in those groups that are eligible for the antivirals, it's good to get a test quickly and go and see your GP. So having a plan to do that if you were to become sick is an important thing.
FERRIER: Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, thank you so much for your time.
KELLY: You're welcome, Stephanie.