According to the government and several health experts, despite the fact that Australia is currently enduring its ninth wave of Covid-19, the number of hospitalizations and fatalities has decreased as a direct result of immunity built up from vaccinations and past infections.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Aged Care stated that national surveillance indicators suggest that the rate of Covid-19 transmission has been gradually increasing since the middle to the late part of August. These indicators include the average daily case numbers, hospitalizations and ICU admissions, outbreaks in aged care facilities, and the dispensing of oral antiviral treatments.
According to the statement made by the spokesman, “these increases have started from a low baseline; however, in the past week, the highest weekly increase since May 2023 has been observed.”
According to the most recent national weekly estimates released by the Australian government, the country is currently reporting an average of 936 cases per day. This represents a 23.6% increase over the previous week’s numbers, which ended on October 24.
Every state and territory has seen an increase in the number of reported cases, with the lowest increase being seen in Victoria at 15.8% and the biggest increase being reported in Northern Territory at 45.1%.
According to the department’s spokeswoman, a sixth Omicron wave is currently being driven by a combination of Omicron sub-variants, the majority of which are XBB. This wave is considered to be Australia’s ninth Covid wave.
Since Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly made the announcement on October 20 that Covid-19 was no longer a communicable disease incidence of national significance, Australia has not experienced another wave of the sickness until now.
According to the primary health protection committee of the Australian government, Australia has transitioned to controlling Covid-19 in a manner that is consistent with the management of other common communicable diseases.
According to Professor Catherine Bennett, who serves as the chair of the department of epidemiology at Deakin University, it is crucial for individuals to be aware that the risk of infection is rising so that they may take the necessary precautions, particularly if they are susceptible to more serious illnesses.
According to the health authorities, the reported case numbers are likely lower than real number due of changes in the standards for testing and reporting.
It is no longer the practice of New South Wales, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, or the Australian Capital Territory to collect information on the findings of self-reported Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Tests.
“activity is much harder to measure now than it was two years ago because fewer people are getting a PCR test done,” said Professor Dominic Dwyer, a medical virologist as well as infectious diseases physician at Institute of Clinical Pathology & Medical Research at NSW Health Pathology.
Bennett stated that the number of instances that have been reported has been gradually decreasing, and she thinks that it is now approximately 5% of infections. However, despite the fact that government surveillance systems may not catch every virus, they are still able to forecast patterns.
According to Bennett, the most recent wave initially struck the southern states, then moved northward to strike the northern states.
According to the most current weekly numbers released by the government, the number of patients being treated for Covid-19 in hospitals across country has climbed by an average of 17.5% when compared with the previous week. Average number of patients admitted to hospitals over the past seven days is 1,245, with 31 requiring acute care.
However, this is significantly lower than the number of cases that were recorded during the June wave (2,776 as of June 6, 2023), and it is far lower than the number of cases that were documented during the July wave of the previous year (5,377 as of July 27, 2022).
According to Bennett, the number of cases in each successive Omicron wave has not been as great as the prior peak. Cases have also had a tendency to be less severe due to the fact that the majority of people have immunity thanks to a combination of previous infection and vaccine.
According to Bennett, the trend away from required rules on Covid by state and federal health departments is a component of the transition to the disease being endemic. “You can’t keep adding rules in and out every time you have a wave – this could go on for a very long time,” she said. “This could go on for a very long time.”
Instead, according to Bennett, the strategy would be more like the flu season, in which officials will give warnings when activity levels are highest.
In the majority of locations, wearing face masks is no longer required. If you have Covid-19 and are in an indoor situation outside of your house where you cannot maintain physical distance, the majority of state health departments advise that you wear them. However, this guidance varies from department to department.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee also suggests that persons who are ill with Covid should stay at home and wear a mask when going to locations with other people who are at a higher risk of serious sickness, such as aged care facilities. This is also recommended if you are at a high risk of contracting the disease.
According to the representative for the health department, various national surveillance indicators are regarded to have started a new wave of transmission when they simultaneously climb from relatively low levels.
Bennett stated that she does not count the number of Covid waves because states were exposed to the virus in varying degrees prior to the opening of the borders at the end of 2021. After borders were opened, waves were able to be more clearly defined, but she noted that advancing waves have been seeing a decline in impact. “What Waves is doing right now is simply identifying the increased risk of being exposed to the virus in the community.”
Associate professor Paul Griffin, who is the director of infectious diseases at Mater Health Services in Brisbane, stated that “we need to move more towards people understanding that Covid is going to be in our community basically forever with fluctuations in case numbers from time to time.”
“It doesn’t go away between these so-called waves, and perhaps we need to adapt our terminology accordingly,” Griffin stated.
According to the representative for the health department, 4.1 million booster doses have been given to people of all ages in the year 2023.
According to the statement made by the representative, “fewer people have received a Covid-19 booster this year than in previous years.”
“The number of people who are getting vaccinated each week is good, but we would like it to be higher.”
Dwyer stated that immunizations and booster shots are of utmost significance; nevertheless, the messaging surrounding a vaccination such as influenza is simpler because the illness occurs seasonally.
If it has been more than six months since a person’s prior dose of the Covid vaccine, the Australian technical advisory committee on immunization recommends that the person take an additional dose of the vaccine. This recommendation applies to individuals who are 75 years old or older.
Atagi recommends that persons aged 56 to 74, as well as anyone aged 18 and older who is severely immunocompromised, should only consider getting a booster shot if it has been more than six months since they received their most recent dosage, and then after consulting with their primary healthcare physician.
The recommendation made by Atagi is in agreement with the most recent advisory issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), which said that continued Covid-19 booster doses should only be administered to high-risk patients.