Omicron is putting a dampener on everyone’s summer even more than La Niña right now, and just in time for Christmas, too, as the case contact pings fly left, right and centre.
She’s breached the inner tube of Melbourne’s inner north, made Sydney’s clubbing scene even worse, and found her way inside Newcastle’s hottest nightclub.
And with all state borders now open except WA’s, she’s spreading like soft butter on toast.
The risk of getting pinged by state officials for being a contact of a case or visiting an exposure site is high right now, with transmissibility looking faster than other variants. There’s also an increasing risk of catching COVID over your glazed ham.
So, other than getting vaxxed as more than 90 per cent of us have, how can we avoid contact with the lurgy in the lead up to Christmas? And how can we ring in 2022 safely?
Thankfully Victoria’s health authorities have let us know their best tips for a COVID-free Chrissy.
Get tested or stay home if you feel sick (like, actually)
This is a no-brainer, but the Department of Health is urging everyone to take this one seriously. Even if you’re not a contact, if you have any symptoms at all, best not to be giving gran a kiss, or anyone for that matter.
The department also said that rapid antigen tests can give you a bit of safety net if you’re not symptomatic, but be aware they are much less effective than PCR tests.
It’s far more likely you’ll receive a false negative on a rapid test than a false positive, so don’t rely on them if you have symptoms.
These tests are also as rare as toot paper was in 2020 so good luck getting some.
Clear a few spots on your Google Calendar
Obviously everyone’s social calendars are chock-a-block right now with Christmas parties, family gatherings and trips away. Now’s the time to prioritise.
If Christmas Day lunch with your family is the most important even coming up this week, the best way to reduce your risk of a prior ping is social celibacy.
This is obviously not possible for most people, so if you are socialising the Department of Health is encouraging everyone to be vigilant.
“Take extra precautions, especially among those who are elderly or vulnerable,” the Department of Health said in a statement.
“Fewer faces and bigger spaces mean less risk. It’s best to wear a mask when talking to people face-to-face. Wash your hands regularly. Open up the doors and windows and get the fresh air flowing through. Keep note of who comes.”
In Victoria the contact rules have changed slightly so that only people who’ve spent more than four hours indoors with a positive case will be deemed close contacts and have to isolate for seven days (or 14 days if you’re not vaccinated).
So drag your dining table outside if you have the space to save yourself the risk of a full-blown iso period. If someone at your alfresco gathering does test positive, you’ll only have to isolate until you return a negative test result.
“Have Christmas on the veranda or reduce your time inside a house with others to less than four hours,” the Department said.
“You may still have to get tested but your time in isolation will be shorter.”
If you’re in NSW fully vaccinated close contacts are required to get tested and isolate until a negative result is returned. But outdoor hangs are still recommended to reduce the risk of infection.
If you do test positive, depending on where you live you’ll likely see out 2021 in isolation and no one wants that.
The most obvious step is to get your booster shot if you’re eligible. You only have to wait five months after your second dose, so if you got double vaxxed in winter, now’s your time to shine.
This is extra important because we know that two doses of vaccines are going to be less effective against symptomatic disease from Omicron than they were against the original Alpha variant.
FYI, Omicron is now the dominant variant in QLD and NSW.
But the vaccines — two or especially three doses — are still highly effective at preventing severe illness or death so that. Is. Why. We. Get. Them.