rising COVID-19 and flu infections will exacerbate staff shortages and transportation problems as health experts warn that the actual number of virus cases could be more than twice as bad as thought.
While death rates from Covid have risen steadily since March, the perception that the disease is no longer as serious for younger and healthy people has meant that restrictions have fallen and the remaining rules are only loosely monitored.
But nearly 247,125 Aussies tested positive for Covid in the past week, with New South Wales recording more than 11,000 new cases on Saturday.
Rising Covid-19 and flu infections will exacerbate staff shortages and transportation problems as health experts warn the true number of virus cases could be more than twice as bad as thought
Air travel is one of the most visible sectors hit by staff shortages as passenger numbers rise – such as the current school holidays
There also appears to be potential for rampant spread of the virus through the temporary staff, who have no right to protect it, as the disaster payment for pandemic leave has now expired (ACTU boss Michele O’Neil pictured)
But according to Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, the official numbers of flu and Covid cases could be less than 40 percent of the true picture.
“Especially with Covid, many people are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms so they go about their normal lives but they can spread it to others,” Ms Bennett told The Australian.
She said that because of the constant contact between sick and healthy workers – some of whom don’t want to stay at home because Covid aid payments have ended – Covid and the flu could remain in the workplace for ‘a long time’.
Constant contact between sick and healthy workers – some of whom don’t want to stay at home because Covid aid payments have ended – could allow Covid and the flu to stay in the workplace for ‘a long time’
Fred Harrison, the boss of an independent supermarket chain, Ritchies IGA, described the current impact of illness on staff as ‘horrific’ (pictured right, Mr. Harrison)
This week, new health secretary Mark Butler warned of a third wave of Covid infections as his department confirmed a record 147,155 new flu cases in 2022, with 55,101 in the past two weeks alone.
The health department also confirmed that children are most at risk for the flu, especially those under the age of nine.
‘In 2022 so far, people aged 5-9, children under 5 and people aged 10-19 have the highest [influenza] notification rates.
Nearly 250,000 Australians have tested positive for Covid in the past week, with states like NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia registering more than 8,000 cases in the past 24 hours (pictured, members of the public walking in Brisbane wearing masks). )
Due to the even greater infectivity of the now-dominant BA.4 and BA.5 variants, there are major concerns about widespread reinfection that could even lead to mask mandates being reintroduced for indoor spaces.
That’s despite evidence showing that unless masks are worn correctly — over the nose, not under it, for example — they aren’t effective against the spread of Omicron.
Professor Peter Collignon, an influential infectious disease physician at the Australian National University, stated on social media last week that masks “probably” won’t work against the Omicron wave.
The effects of the spread of Covid and flu and the absence of workers are now having a huge impact on the economy, especially as the workforce is too ill to work in sectors such as healthcare, retail, transport and hospitality.
The boss of an independent supermarket chain, Ritchies IGA, described the current impact of illness on staff as ‘horrific’
‘It’s very challenging. We still have a high level of Covid in our business,” said Fred Harrison of Ritchies IGA. “There are people with colds and flu, which is another complication.”
Health Secretary Mark Butler warned of a third wave of Covid infections as his department confirmed a record 147,155 new flu cases in 2022
Queensland is considering bringing the hated masks mandates back into a major U-turn in an effort to counter the worst effects of Covid (pictured, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk removing her mask)
Air travel is one of the most visible sectors affected by staff shortages when passenger numbers peak, such as the current school holidays.
Huge airport check-in queues were reported this week in Melbourne and Brisbane and are expected in Sydney as the school holidays have started.
Staff shortages due to illness are one of the main reasons for the delays.
There also appears to be a potential for rampant spread of the virus through the temporary staff, who have no right to protect it, as the pandemic leave disaster allowance has now expired.
Until June 30, $450 was given to workers who lost between eight and 20 hours of work and $750 if they lost 20 or more hours.
The end of those payments on Thursday was harshly criticized by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
That’s despite the fact that anyone who tests positive is still legally required to self-isolate at home for seven days.
“This decision will lead to workers working while they are sick, which we have known since the early days of the pandemic is one way of spreading the virus more quickly,” ACTU President Michele O’Neil said.
Butler called the shortage of nurses, doctors and aged care workers “a crisis.”
“We expect another wave of COVID in the coming months, so we’re seeing a new sub-variant, the BA.4 and the BA.5 sub-variants here in Australia,” Mr Butler said.
“We’ve seen abroad that there’s a higher risk of reinfection, so if you’ve had COVID earlier this year, there’s a risk in the first wave in the summer that you’ll be open to reinfection.”
He urged people who have not had a booster to get one.
Queensland is tipped to be the first to bring back mask mandates in an effort to halt the tidal wave of infection.
The Chief Health Officer of Queensland, Dr. John Gerrard, revealed there were ongoing talks with his interstate colleagues about the return of mask mandates.
“I can say there is increasing pressure nationwide,” he told 4BC’s Peter Fegan.
“There is a mindset that we should make masks mandatory again.”
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