A massive surge in the number of flu and cold cases in Australia has taken down me and pretty much everyone I know in recent weeks. Half the PEDESTRIAN.TV editorial team has been off sick and we are a microcosm for the rest of the country because the number of workers who took sick leave in May was 50 per cent higher than the average.

The absentee rates among workers peaked nationwide in the first two weeks of May, according to MYOB payroll data for small and medium businesses.

It’s still lower than the absentee rates in January and February when Omicron was bearing down on us, but it was pretty fucking bad then. Even though it’s slightly better now, this is still a difficult time to be trying to keep a team or business together. Let’s all remember that next time there’s a long line to get a coffee or your favourite bar is closed without warning. It’s tough out there, please be patient and understanding.

WA experienced the highest levels of absenteeism in the first half of May at 81 per cent above the average, mostly because it’s only just getting its first COVID wave.

ACT was next with absenteeism at 70 per cent above average, followed by NT at 63 per cent and Queensland at 59 per cent.

Things were actually even worse in late April for Vic, NSW, SA and Tassie and the data showed it was starting to improve for them by mid-May, but absentee rates still sat between 45 and 54 per cent.

Influenza is running rampant in Australia for a couple of reasons, mainly because no one caught the flu in 2020 or 2021. Back then we were all super safe, wearing masks and staying home and the virus literally disappeared from our shores. But the downside of that is now our immunity has wained so when we’re exposed to the virus the chances of becoming sick are very high.

Experts also think we have vaccine fatigue so people simply aren’t going out to get their flu shot.

Flu vaccine uptake has dropped year on year throughout the pandemic.

About 600,000 NSW residents received their annual flu shot between March 1 and April 25 this year, compared to 850,000 in the same period in 2021 and 1.5 million in 2020.

Not getting yours if you can is is dumb because a) health and b) most states have now introduced free flu vaccine programs to help stem the outbreak.

Experts have said this flu outbreak could become an epidemic and predicted we’re still ages away the peak, which is due in July or August.

So please mask up, stay home if you’re sick (well to everyone using the sick leave they’re legally entitled to) and be patient with any workers you deal with.

Image: Getty Images / Darrian Traynor