Victorian COVID response Commander, Jeroen Weimar, and Acting Chief Health Officer (CHO), Professor Ben Cowie, briefed ethnic media on the government’s new COVID restrictions.
Professor Ben Cowie presented the media with the new restrictions which include density limits at venues of one person per two square metres. No dancing indoors, “except at weddings” and “preferably outside”.
Mask wearing indoors is again mandatory. And people are encouraged to take a rapid antigen test (RAT), (if they can find one), before they visit their loved ones in aged care facilities and hospitals. There is also a ‘suggestion’ to study and work from home until late January.
The state’s hospitals are under pressure as the Omicron infections send staff into isolation and the number of infected patients grow.
Professor Ben Cowie said that “there are 800 Victorians currently in hospital and 50 Victorians have lost their life so far this year due to Omicron”.
There are 69 cases in intensive care, and most are unvaccinated according to a recent ABC report. In comparison, in September 2021 there were 398 Delta COVID-19 cases in hospital and 83 of those cases in intensive care, with 57 cases on a ventilator.
“We have over 4000 health care workers who can’t work because there are infected with COVID19, or who are household close contacts of people living with COVID19, but our health system has been, and continues to be very resilient.
“But we need to support healthcare workers who are being affected with COVID-19 just like the rest of us,” Professor Cowie said.
Neos Kosmos relayed the frustration of many of its readers, given Victoria’s double dose vaccination rate is around 93 per cent.
“Everybody is frustrated” Professor Cowie said, “we are experiencing COVID-19 again, and nobody wants to unnecessarily impose restrictions on socialising”.
In 2021 we were told by Premier Premier Dan Andrews that COVID-19 would become “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”.
“Vaccination is hugely beneficial even against Omicron at preventing serious illness, this variant has emerged because it has mutations that are associated with breaking through immunity, whether that’s from previous infection, or vaccination.
“High levels of vaccination are making it possible for us to not have a massive toll on hospitalisation and a [significant] loss of life.”
The question that arises is; are our health systems unprepared even though we had two years of COVID-19 and the longest lockdowns in the world?
“The pressure is worldwide, and not exclusive to Australia, many health systems have been through a lot worse than we have in terms of impact in the previous waves of COVID-19.
“I’m thinking about North America and about Europe, many countries are being seriously challenged and continue to be and the new restrictions are necessary to support health staff who look after us,” Professor Cowie said.
Professor Cowie bristled at a suggestion that immunised Victorians might be in a self-imposed lockdown due to fear of infection and fear of forced isolation.
“This is not lockdown… these are minor restrictions until infections and hospitalisations subside.”
Restrictions are adding pressure on small business, community events, arts and entertainment, venues, and restaurants, who suffered two years of rolling lockdowns and loss of income.
Neos Kosmos asked if the ongoing readjustments on restrictions will have a telos, an end?
“We can’t wait for the telos of Omicron,” Professor Cowie said.
He said that the restrictions are “subject to the pandemic legislation” passed by the Victorian government.
“This is not an indefinite issue, and these provisions are subject to the pandemic orders, which are triggered by threat posed by the pandemic.”
Professor Cowie added that public health and social measures are supported by Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and the World Health Organisation.
To learn more about the new restrictions go to https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/how-we-live