Combatting the spread of COVID-19 in Australia

10 January 2022

Australia needs to adopt a vaccine-plus strategy to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19, says C Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity, at Sydney’s UNSW, writing for The Conversation.

Among other things, this includes expanding PCR testing capacity, making rapid antigen test kits freely available to everyone, ditto high quality face masks, and stepping up the vaccine booster program.

If there’s no change in policy, there will be a higher, faster peak that far exceeds available health care, which may then force a lockdown. If people who need simple measures like oxygen cannot get a hospital bed, the death rate will start rising. The other option is to use “vaccines-plus” to flatten the curve and ease the load on society and the health system.

The perception the Omicron strain of COVID-19 is mild — thinking that possibly resulted in Australian federal and state government leaving the virus to spread — while sounding comforting, is not necessarily the case, says MacIntyre:

The Omicron wave has made health systems buckle in most states, with NSW worst affected currently. Delta was twice as severe as previous variants, so if Omicron is 20-45% less severe than Delta, that’s still no laughing matter with low booster rates.

It’s food for thought, considering the long term effects of the virus are yet to be understood. It sounds like prevention is easier than cure, but prevention is not easy.

It’s worth doing everything we can to prevent COVID and the long term burden of illness it may cause. In addition to long COVID, SARS-CoV-2 lingers in the heart, brain and many other organs long after the acute infection, and we don’t know the long term impacts of this.