LISA MILLAR, ABC NEWS BREAKFAST CO-HOST: Australians are facing the prospect of another Christmas COVID wave. Case numbers seem to be creeping higher as the festivities ramp up. Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly joins us from Canberra. Paul, good to see you again.
PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Hi, Lisa.
MILLAR: What are, what is happening with the numbers? Where are we at?
KELLY: So, we’re certainly in another COVID wave. We’d call this the sixth Omicron wave. That’s where most of our cases have been since Omicron hit these shores at the end of 2021.
Earlier this year, I think we talked about what my predictions were for 2023 and I said we’d probably have two to three waves, and this is our third one for this year. Each of the waves have been less severe in terms of hospitalisations, outbreaks in aged care, ICU and so on. But we’re certainly in a wave right now. My sense is that we’ve probably peaked, and we’ll start to decrease. But of course, as you’ve mentioned, we are in the festive season. There’s lots of lots of parties and so forth and so that that possibility that that transmission will happen is certainly there.
MILLAR: What’s the latest advice on mask wearing then?
KELLY: Look, I think it’s the same as we’ve had before. When we when we released the other restrictions well over a year ago now, there was, our advice was if you if you’re feeling sick, go and get a test and if you can stay at home, if you’ve if you’re COVID positive do so. That will decrease transmission to others. If you’re feeling vulnerable yourself for whatever reason, from a health perspective, then feel free to wear a mask. That’s people’s choice that they can do that to protect themselves.
If you are sick and you’re concerned about passing on to more vulnerable relatives for example, going and visiting granny in an aged care facility over Christmas, then whilst it’s not compulsory to do so, wearing a mask to protect older relatives is a good idea. But in terms of everyone going back to mask wearing at the moment that’s certainly not our current policy position.
MILLAR: Yeah. And I guess the only way for us to get an idea of how people are being affected at the moment is the hospitalisation numbers and what are they looking like?
KELLY: Yeah. So, they’ve, they have risen during this wave as we’ve expected, but nowhere near to the extent of previous waves. Each of the waves we’ve had this year have had less hospitalisations actions, lower numbers of outbreaks in aged care, lower deaths in aged care. But you know, people have died of COVID this year and that’s very sad. But only about a third of the numbers from 2022. That was our that was our big year in terms of that severe end of COVID.
But it’s important that people over the age of 75 in particular take the latest ATAGI advice, which is to get a second booster for this year of the vaccine and there is a new vaccine, will be available from next Monday so people can book in to get that XBB vaccine. The latest version from Pfizer and from Moderna.
MILLAR: Okay, Great to know. Paul Kelly, always good to chat. Thank you.
KELLY: Thanks, Lisa.