Australia is witnessing a notable uptick in Covid-19 cases across all states and territories, with 6,550 reported cases last week alone. The surge, according to top professors, can be attributed to a waning of immunity and the emergence of a new sub-variant known as E.G.5.1. Epidemiology Professor Catherine Bennett explains that people are becoming more susceptible to this sub-variant as their immunity fades over time.
Although the new wave of infections is unfortunate, it was not unexpected, says Prof Bennett. Sub-variants like E.G.5.1 are now responsible for half of the cases in New South Wales, and they are likely to continue driving new infections in the weeks to come. Unlike previous waves, this one has had a relatively slow takeoff, but it still poses risks, especially as a proportion of infected individuals may end up in hospital.
Recognizing the need to flatten the curve, Professor Bennett emphasizes the importance of testing even for individuals with milder symptoms or atypical signs like aching muscles or a sore back. People should also remain cautious of potential exposures and consider the risk they pose to others. To protect the most vulnerable, those infected should wear masks, maintain Covid-safe practices, and adopt measures to reduce transmission within their households.
Despite the surge, Professor Peter Collignon, another renowned Covid expert, believes that Christmas is unlikely to be a major problem in terms of new infections. With Australia having already experienced two waves this year, the upcoming summer season allows for more outdoor activities, decreasing the spread while still allowing a relatively normal social life.
In terms of what to do if one tests positive for Covid, it is still advised to remain socially distanced, especially around high-risk or vulnerable individuals. Symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, and muscle aches should be taken seriously, and infected individuals should stay home, rest, and ensure good air circulation within their rooms. It is also recommended to form a plan for the festive period, stock up on antivirals, and consult with a GP about eligibility for a booster shot.
While the rise in cases has prompted health authorities to reinforce pandemic habits such as handwashing and staying home when feeling unwell, it is reassuring that the disease has not become more severe or resistant to vaccines. As the virus continues to evolve, experts stress that each wave and sub-variant are still less severe than before. Ultimately, the advice from infectious diseases expert Dr. Collignon is simple: "If you're sick, don't go." Taking necessary precautions and adhering to public health guidelines remains crucial in minimizing the risk of transmission during this festive season.