Australia has just taken a grim step that no one saw coming 12 months ago. Now GPs say the worst is yet to come as Covid-19 and flu collide.
Australia has just taken a grim step that no one saw coming 12 months ago. But now GPs say the worst is yet to come as Covid-19 and this winter’s brutal flu strain collide.
Australia surpassed 10,000 Covid-19 deaths on Sunday. More than three-quarters of those have happened since January this year.
The rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths is so significant that NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday called people ‘crazy’ for not yet receiving their third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“If you had two [doses]or one, and you don’t have number three, to put it bluntly, you’re crazy,” Mr. Hazzard said.
NSW Health Director Kerry Chant has said hospitalizations could hit the numbers seen in January as the new Omicron strain variants, BA.4 and BA.5, approach an expected peak later this this month.
“I am concerned about this image,” she said, adding that the simultaneous spread of flu was also concerning.
Australia has largely dropped all restrictions from 2020 and 2021 – years that have been dominated by a push to get the population vaccinated.
Although different from state to state, mask rules have passed from all settings except those with vulnerable populations such as schools, aged care facilities, hospitals and public transports.
While state and territory leaders have taken a ‘living with Covid-19’ approach, experts are adamant that the pandemic is not over. And the data backs it up.
As Australia grapples with Covid-19, GPs say the flu season looks like the worst in a generation.
Dr Bruce Willett of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) said he had never seen a winter like this.
“I’ve been a GP for 35 years now and I haven’t really seen a winter like this where we see such a high number of flu cases,” Dr Willett told ABC News.
He said a record number of flu infections and a slew of other viruses have created a ‘perfect storm’ that is wreaking havoc on the healthcare system and forcing patients to wait longer than they have to. done for years to see a GP.
An article written by Bond University professor of medicine Paul Glasziou and Bond University professor of evidence-based practice David Henry explains exactly how worried Australians should be about Covid-19 and the flu.
“This year we have seen both the Omicron wave and the re-emergence of influenza,” they wrote in an article for The conversation.
“After nearly disappearing for two years from the pandemic, the lifting of most restrictions (such as social distancing and working from home), the decline in the use of masks and the opening of international borders have allowed the flu to come back.”
Importantly, they wrote that the case fatality rate of Covid-19 – which is the proportion of people infected with the virus who do not survive – “has improved significantly” from 3% in 2020 to around 0.1% this year.
A big part of that is the number of people vaccinated, but Omicron is also a milder variant than its predecessors.
The authors say the current death rate is “comparable to the case fatality rate of seasonal influenza seen in normal influenza years.”
But they note that the pandemic “is not over” and that new subvariants will “continue to cause illness, hospitalizations and deaths.”
Their advice? Boosters, Masks, and Crowd Avoidance.
“During the winter, we must redouble our efforts to maintain population immunity through vaccine boosters combined with reasonable protective measures,” they wrote.
“Make sure your Covid and flu shots are up to date, avoid crowded places (or wear a mask if you can’t) and avoid others if you have respiratory symptoms.”
It comes after an analysis of new daily confirmed cases of coronavirus last week showed Australia’s seven-day rolling average is 1,100 cases per million people.
That’s higher than the US, UK, France, and Italy, as well as dozens of other Western countries.
The European average is only 398 cases per million inhabitants.