A health expert has warned of a potential “triple wave” of infections, as winter is set to increase rates of Covid infections that now number nearly 5000 new cases a day.
University of Sydney infectious diseases specialist Robert Booy said reduced vaccination rates, plus waning vigilance, could lead to a three-pronged spike of “influenza, Covid and other viruses impacting our communities”.
“Winter brings with it colder months, and more time spent indoors, all of which increase the likelihood of the spread of respiratory infections like influenza and Covid-19,” Professor Booy said.
“This research shows four in five of us know someone who is at higher risk of serious illness from Covid-19.”
The warning comes as death and hospitalisation rates from the virus begin to rise, and new research shows Australians are less likely to bother testing if they have Covid symptoms than they were a year ago.
Research from pharmacy giant Pfizer Australia found that 74 per cent of Australians surveyed said Covid-19 would be viewed like the seasonal flu a year from now.
Compared with a year ago, 36 per cent of Australians also said they were less likely to test for Covid-19 even if there were experiencing symptoms.
Even people at higher risk of severe illness were less likely to test (23 per cent) or see a GP if they were experiencing Covid symptoms (25 per cent).
Booster rates dropping
Booster rates for the Covid vaccine have also reduced.
Compared with May 9 figures, Covid booster doses have reduced from a seven-day average of 35,161 to 22,717 on June 7, a drop of 12,444.
Additional national health records released this week revealed 16.6 million Australians had not received their Covid-19 booster.
Head of Melbourne University’s School of Health Sciences Bruce Thompson advised people to get an annual or biannual booster as they would with a flu shot.
“We need a flu shot every year, if we need a Covid shot every year, or twice a year, it is what it is,” he said.
“Take a bit more personal responsibility and awareness around not contracting Covid and not giving it to someone as well.
“Even though we are living alongside it, if you have Covid stay at home. The same goes if you have a horrible cold.”
With 2600 Australians dying of Covid this year, the epidemiologist warned the numbers were “significant”.
“We’re only six months into the year and we’ve had more than 2600 deaths from Covid – that’s frightening,” he said.
“We could potentially have more than 5500 deaths of Covid. That’s four or five times more than influenza.”
More than 4700 new cases a day
More than three years on from the onset of the pandemic, national Covid infections still reflect daily average cases of more 4700 or 32,9991 new cases in the week to June 6.
While this was a 14.6 per cent drop compared with the previous week, cases had marginally increased in Queensland, and the ACT while remaining stable in NSW.
According to NSW Health, the state reported 11,719 new Covid cases in the week to 4pm on Thursday. It’s death rate, however, increased from 64 to 81 this week.
Health Minister Ryan Park urged residents to keep up to date with their vaccinations.
“As we enter the winter months, staying up to date with recommended vaccinations is the best way to protect you, your family and the community from serious illness,” he said.
Victoria reported 6135 new cases in the seven days to Thursday, with 64 deaths. While deaths had increased from 50 the week before, new infections had dropped from last week’s 8669 case count.
In the seven days to 4pm on Thursday, Western Australia reported 3014 cases.
Seven deaths were also reported to WA Health, with one death dating back to April 24.
New cases in Queensland increased marginally by 0.6 per cent to 5474 from 5439 the week before. There were also 14 new deaths during this time period.
South Australia also reported 2593 cases in addition to 24 new deaths, both figures reflecting a decrease from last week’s numbers of 3728 new cases and 36 deaths.
The Northern Territory reported 136 new infections in the week up to Thursday. While transmission dropped from 178 the week prior, 14 people are in hospital – an increase from nine patients last week.
Tasmania also reported 1241 new cases and four deaths, while 811 new cases were detected in the ACT in addition to five new deaths.