A virology expert has warned Australia is not ready to ease Covid-19 restrictions like parts of Europe.
Parts of Europe have begun easing restrictions and “living with the virus” but Australia is not ready to do the same, a virology expert has warned.
In England, Covid-19 passes are no longer compulsory to gain entry to venues and events, and face masks are no longer needed in public but are recommended in some places.
Across the UK, Covid-positive people can now end self-isolation after seven days, subject to two negative lateral flow test results on days six and seven.
It comes as data showed the number of daily infections was dropping in the UK.
Other countries are also easing some restrictions, such as The Netherlands, despite the government noting the number of cases remains high and people are self-isolating.
“The easing of restrictions will probably cause the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals to increase,” the government said on its website.
“But despite the risks and uncertainties, the government believes it is responsible to take this big step.
“Prolonging the measures that so restrict our daily lives is also harmful to people’s health and to society as a whole.”
In a statement this week, the government in Denmark said Covid-19 “should no longer be categorised as a socially critical disease” after January 31.
So should Australia be following Europe’s lead?
More than 31,000 cases were recorded in Australia in the past 24 hours to Thursday, with more than 5000 people in hospital, including 372 in intensive care.
Gaetan Burgio, from the Australian National University, suggested it would be a mistake to ease restrictions here right now.
He told NCA NewsWire that Australia seemed to only just be starting to pass the peak of the Omicron infection.
“As school will be starting soon, I would anticipate a spike in Omicron infection,” Dr Burgio said.
“In my view, it is too early for Australia to ease restrictions given schools are reopening and another spike in infection is anticipated (and) the vaccine rollout (booster and vaccination in children) is still not high enough to confidently ease restrictions.
“Meanwhile, another Covid variant is likely to emerge.”
Dr Burgio said winter would “certainly” have an impact as Australia continued to navigate the pandemic.
“As Covid-19 virus transmission involves aerosols, rooms will be less ventilated due to cold weather and people will tend to gather in warm rooms,” he said.
“Therefore, it will certainly impact the transmission of the virus and its spread.
“Vaccines, hygiene measures and good ventilation will be essential mitigation measures.”
Dr Burgio said the virus had already become part of our lives and the idea of “living with the virus” would ultimately mean that eventually everyone would become infected at least once, if not multiple times.
“Compared to Europe and the US, Australia has bought time, which has allowed the country to reach a high vaccination coverage rate, which has enabled it to protect Australians,” he said.
“With the Omicron surge, it is now clear that Australia is no longer different to Europe or the US, and we have to come to the realisation that we will have to live with the virus.
“It is therefore absolutely critical to get vaccinated, keep hygiene measures to protect ourselves and the community against severe infections.”