Australia is in a new COVID wave. Community transmission of COVID-19 is now moderate to high, health authorities say, as a top doctor calls for mandatory masking to be reintroduced. So what do young Aussies need to know? We’ve got you covered.
What we know about this new COVID wave
NSW Health warned transmission was trending high in a statement issued on Friday morning. The authority said the number of cases in the state had risen 11 per cent in the past fortnight.
The current wave has been trending up for several months now. While it is expected to be a small-ish wave, experts say viral mutations make it hard to predict exactly how it will hit or when it will peak. Most agree, however, that we can expect the peak sometime around Christmas.
Should we be masking up?
Authorities are divided on whether states should bring back mask mandates.
Australian Medical Association Queensland President Maria Boulton called for authorities to reinstate mandatory masking to prevent overburdening the healthcare system over the Christmas period.
“The association would like to see the chief health officer addressing the community regularly and guiding them on how we can avoid another disastrous Christmas,” she told the Courier-Mail on Wednesday.
“The public should be encouraged to mask up in medical settings, planes or in crowds in the lead up to big Christmas gatherings.”
However, Chief Health Officials have so far ruled this out. In a media stand up on Wednesday, Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard confirmed the current COVID wave, but said vaccines and boosters were still the top form of protection.
“I am making no general recommendation about mask-wearing in public or health facilities,” he said.
“Our focus must be on those who are at greatest risk, which is principally people over the age of 65 and ensuring they have had a booster shot this year.”
He said that at this time a masking mandate would be “disproportionate”.
The current COVID wave is being felt across the country, with NSW, Queensland and Victorian health authorities all issuing alerts.
In South Australia, a number of hospitals have already reintroduced mandatory masking. However, South Australia Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the decision was up to individual hospitals.
“Generally, we will not be making mandates — it is up to individual hospitals and aged care facilities, they know what to do,” she said in a statement.
“They have the information and knowledge about how to manage outbreaks.”
Although there are no official rule changes yet, health authorities are recommending people with symptoms stay home, keep up to date with vaccinations, wash hands frequently and get together where there’s fresh air.