Life may be back to normal for many Australians, but for immunocompromised Harry Iles-Mann, the lockdown is far from over.
“I’ve only been out socially twice in the past two years,” Iles-Mann told SBS News.
“Both times were this year and on both occasions it was an outdoor experience,” he said.
Sydneysider, 28, has had liver disease and ulcerative colitis since he was three. And while he has been fully vaccinated and given his second booster, he is concerned that if he does contract COVID-19 it could be disastrous for his health.
“There’s a very high risk of community transmission right now… and that represents a very high risk for people like me,” Mr Iles-Mann said.
He has good reason to be concerned. According to Taking its data from John Hopkins University (obtained from governments, national and sub-national agencies around the world), the number of new COVID-19 infections per capita in Australia was the fourth highest in the world on Saturday.
This was only after the Falkland Islands, Montserrat and Taiwan.
And COVID-19 isn’t the only thing experts are concerned about. After a two-year hiatus, the seasonal flu is coming back just in time for winter.
Chris Moy – vice president of the Australian Medical Association – said the combination of COVID-19 and flu is poised to put “enormous pressure” on the Australian health system.
“We are going into winter for our first real flu season [in] a few years,” Dr. Moy told SBS News.
“We will have a sustained number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19, which is a major concern as our hospitals will be under tremendous pressure in the coming months or so,” he said.
Nancy Baxter, principal of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne. Source: Delivered
According to epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, while contracting COVID-19 offers some resistance to the same or other variants of COVID-19, it offers absolutely no protection against the flu virus.
“There will be people who will get both COVID and the flu and that is not a good scenario,” Professor Baxter told SBS News.
“If you have one infectious disease that affects your lungs and you get a second, it gets worse,” she said.
Getting fully vaccinated and boosted is the first course of action both experts recommend.
“It’s really imperative right now that everyone keeps up with their vaccinations – either get vaccinated or get the booster. Also get a flu shot so we can minimize the number of both infections,” said Dr. Moy.
But the experts also recommend the use of masks.
“People should consider, especially in indoor spaces where it’s not possible to physically distance themselves, to go back to basics, such as wearing masks, to minimize the spread of both infections,” said Dr. moy.
According to Ambulance Victoria’s most recent quarterly report, the period between January 1 and March 31 was one of the busiest in its history, with the healthcare system having to deal with more than 90,000 Code 1 incidents.
Code 1 represents time-critical events where the response requires lights and siren.
The aforementioned quarter coincided with the peak of the Omicron variant in Victoria.
Danny Hill, Executive Secretary of the Victorian Ambulance Union.
But while Omicron has reached its peak in the state, Danny Hill — secretary of the Victorian Ambulance Union — said the demand for ambulance services has not.
“Anecdotally, what we are hearing from our members is that things have not calmed down,” Mr Hill told SBS News.
While calls related to COVID-19 emergencies have declined, Mr Hill said there has been an increase in “lower acuity work” – cases “where people have not been able to see their regular GP and are not feeling well. and feel the need to dial triple zero”.
As a result, Mr Hill said, “we have a completely tense and burned-out workforce”.
“We regularly see people literally collapsing in the workplace and any measure we can take to ease the workload of health professionals helps ensure we keep patients and the most vulnerable safe,” he said.