Australia’s move to scrap mandatory COVID isolation is ‘premature’, medical association says – Reuters

Customers queue outside a pharmacy in western Sydney to buy rapid antigen test kits following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Sydney, Australia, January 5, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

A decision by the Australian and US government to end mandatory isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 has been widely criticized as premature.

On September 30, the national cabinet – the Federal Government, States and Territories – agreed to end mandatory isolation from October 14, widely seen as marking the end of Australia’s emergency response to the pandemic.

The ruling, however, has left many healthcare and healthcare professionals concerned that Australians now believe the pandemic is over.

Dr Abrar Chughtai, senior lecturer and director of the master’s program in infectious disease intelligence at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, called the decision “premature”.

The announcement was widely expected due to widespread “community and financial pressure” on the government, he told China Daily.

“Ultimately we have to live with COVID, but we have to understand that the pandemic is not over yet and new strains are still emerging and people are dying,” Chughtai said.

Up to October 1 this year, 14,853 people had died of COVID in Australia since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the World Health Organization – half of them having died this year.

The Australian Medical Association has strongly condemned the move, saying those who pushed for mandatory isolation to be dropped “have no scientific knowledge” and are putting lives at risk.

Australia had closed international borders for about two years and imposed strict limits on travel within the country, often referred to as “Fortress Australia”.

The government scrapped most COVID rules in August-September and mandatory isolation was the last remaining restriction.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, pro-vice chancellor for health sciences and director of the Australian National Phenomeum Center at Murdoch University in Melbourne, said: “There is a generally accepted hypothesis that the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, and we need to get back to “normal”, whatever that means.

“This assumption is highly dependent on your social or political outlook and your exact location on planet Earth.

“From a scientific point of view, there is no evidence that we have yet gone through the evolution and development of the virus, and the general lack of testing does not help us much to estimate the actual transmission rates and, in many cases even the prevalence of the disease,” he told China Daily.

Despite having one of the highest per capita vaccination rates in the world, vaccination renewal in Australia is not being picked up, which means immunity is declining.

Up to about 20% of people who have had COVID-19 will go on to experience Long COVID symptoms, which can linger for years, Nicholson said.

Scientists say these long-term symptoms will cost the world billions, if not trillions, of dollars, as COVID acts as an inflammatory accelerator for existing subclinical pathologies that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and a range of neurological problems. These are now well-established facts based on studies of millions of people and published in top scientific and medical journals.

“COVID-19 is still a dangerous long-term health threat,” Nicholson said. “Political wishful thinking and the selective use of scientific data have been the cause of many COVID-related problems around the world over the past two years – and even though the world has suffered such a huge blow, it seems that the lessons will never be learned.”

Hassan Vally, associate professor of epidemiology at Deakin University, said this change in isolation requirements in Australia “reflects a fundamental shift in the calculation of risk in relation to the threat posed by COVID in the population. general”.

He said the change happened because of the high level of immunity in the population – the result of a combination of vaccination and infection.

It’s notable and important that isolation requirements remain for high-risk settings such as elderly care and hospital workers, Vally said.

“Whether now is the right time to make this change, and whether it can be seen as marking the end of the pandemic in Australia, is no doubt going to be hotly debated over the coming weeks.”

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