The beginning of 2022 was characterized by a sharp increase and decrease in cases when the waves of Omicron rushed in, when the Victorian people emerged from the two years primarily defined by the blockade.
The wave, which peaked in tens of thousands of cases per day in early January, has subsided somewhat, but epidemiologists warn that more will happen, especially as the winter months approach. bottom.
This week, the number of new daily cases in Victoria exceeded 10,000 for several consecutive days, reaching an unprecedented number since early February, and 14,333 new infections were reported on Thursday.
Victoria recorded 22 deaths from the virus and 12,160 new cases on Saturday.
Currently, 524 people are hospitalized for the virus, 24 of whom are in the intensive care unit and 4 are on ventilator.
Experts carefully monitor the data until it emerges, but in some cases there is a clear “revival”.
Cold weather, weakened immunity likely behind changes
Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter of the University of Melbourne said multiple converging factors seemed to have led to an increase in cases.
She said that relaxation of restrictions, including not requiring home contacts to stay at home, played a higher role in communication, but one factor was not simply responsible.
“People are becoming more indoor and sociable because of the cold weather,” she said.
Professor Baxter said weakened immunity is another important factor.
“There is some immunity after a COVID infection … usually people are fairly well protected for 60 days and some for 3 months,” she said.
“For those who got Omicron at Christmas time, we are well over three months old, so they are now at risk again.
“And the boosted people had protection from infection near that Christmas time, but protection from infection diminishes or diminishes faster than protection from serious illness or death. . “
Professor Baxter said last week that these changes had been effective.
“We continued to relax restrictions and protections, so we reached a plateau that didn’t go down,” she said.
A new subvariant that hasn’t played a role yet
Earlier this month, the Victoria State Government confirmed that a subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2.12.1, BA.4, BA.5, was found in Melbourne’s wastewater.
In total, wastewater detection detected the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants 15 times and the BA.2.12.1 subvariant 5 times.
James Trauer, Head of Epidemiological Modeling at Monash University, said it is important to track these subvariants as they appear to be more contagious than the current major subvariants. Said.
But he said they were “too early” to lead to an increase in incidents.
“It looks like it’s a little resurrected,” he said.
“We need to find something that can explain this change.”
He agreed with Professor Baxter that changes in the weather, where people spend more time indoors, are likely to be a key factor behind the increase.
Just a week later Victoria marks a tough milestone for more than 3,000 deaths from COVID throughout the pandemicProfessor Baxter warned that more hospitalizations and deaths would inevitably follow an increase in cases.
“It won’t be tomorrow,” she said.
“We know that it will take 7-10 days for these to become apparent in the hospital system, and even longer for the number of people dying from COVID.”
She said she did not have the “appetite” to regain the restrictions of wearing indoor masks, but urged people to take steps to protect themselves by wearing “high quality and well-ventilated” masks. bottom.
COVID-19 booster shot, influenza vaccine key
Professor Baxter also said that jabing 30% of people who haven’t received booster shots in Victoria will help mitigate the effects of the increase.
Although 94.6% of Victorians over the age of 12 received two COVID vaccines, only 66.8% of Victorians over the age of 16 received three doses, and this figure was barely visible for several weeks.
She said the health system was already under tension for some time.
“In addition to the flu season, these new COVID surges have brought the hospital system to the point where it is actually at risk,” Baxter said.
Dr. Trauer said new promotions to encourage eligible people to receive the COVID-19 booster vaccine would help curb the effects of the current rise in cases.
“We are still killing quite a few, and the healthcare system is under a heavy burden.
“The best way to prevent it is to vaccinate high-risk people to prevent serious consequences after infection.”
According to federal government data on May 10, 90.7% of the 175,640 Australians caring for the elderly received three or more COVID vaccinations.
Dr. Trauer said influenza vaccine grants should be expanded to include more people, including children.
Currently, influenza vaccine is free for children up to 5 years old, people over 65 years old, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and people with any medical condition.
The change to the free influenza vaccine coverage under the national program relies on advice from the Australian Immunotechnology Advisory Group (ATAGI).
Dr. Trauer said making the flu vaccine more accessible would help reduce the pressure that COVID and the flu wave put on the health system at the same time.
“We shouldn’t require it,” he said.
“But there are barriers that prevent people from getting the flu vaccine when we head for a really dangerous period of Omicron / flu.”
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