Australia's top doctor, Professor Paul Kelly, has issued a warning that Australia is currently experiencing its third wave of Covid-19 this year, as cases continue to rise across the country. This revelation comes less than two weeks after the end of the Covid emergency response, an announcement made by the chief medical officer on October 20.
Although the virus is still seen as a serious threat, Professor Kelly acknowledged that the new strains appear to be less severe than their predecessors. He attributed this to the increasing immunity among Australians due to vaccinations and previous infections.
Professor Kelly confirmed that the current surge is linked to the XBB Omicron subvariant and is at least the eighth wave Australia has faced, with numerous subvariants of Omicron. However, he emphasized that each wave has been less severe than the previous ones. He admitted that there is a possibility of a new variant of concern but stated that nothing significant has emerged since late 2021 when Omicron first appeared.
Looking ahead, Professor Kelly stated that Australia should expect more waves of Covid-19 in the coming years. Despite this, he highlighted that current and emerging variants pose no greater danger than other Omicron strains. The focus will remain on vaccination, prevention, and case management, rather than implementing emergency measures.
To ensure ongoing surveillance and monitoring, the national and sentinel surveillance programs will continue to track changes in disease rates through a network of doctors, laboratories, and public servants.
Latest official weekly Covid case numbers show a 23.6% increase, with the most significant week-on-week increases observed in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, and New South Wales. Hospitalized Covid-19 cases across Australia have also risen by an average of 17.5% compared to the previous week, with New South Wales having the highest number of hospitalizations.
Dr Ashley Van Leeuwestyn, a GP registrar, highlighted the continuous rise in Covid cases in patients of all ages, particularly among older individuals. She stressed that Covid-19 is still present and has become a new normal in medical presentations.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee supported Professor Kelly's decision to end the emergency settings, stating that Covid-19 is no longer a public health emergency. They emphasized that vaccination and other mitigation strategies are now more appropriate to manage the ongoing waves of infection.
As the pandemic in Australia has seen 11,793,995 Covid cases and 22,885 deaths since 2020, health authorities urge older Australians to consider receiving a third vaccination if they have not done so already. The World Health Organization officially declared Covid-19 no longer a global health emergency on May 5, 2023.