The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) reiterates several essential steps for protecting individuals against COVID-19 amid a new wave of infections this winter.
Australia, which is now facing a significant threat of community transmission of COVID-19 and influenza, is beginning to experience a new rise in infections driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants.
The AHPPC said they expect the new wave to lead to more infections, hospitalisations, and deaths when health systems and communities are already under strain.
According to the AHPPC, the decrease in community and public health actions will likely lead to the same increase in cases experienced during the BA.1 wave in January.
The BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants lead to higher infection rates.
The country is likely to see rates of reinfection rise among people with previous COVID-19 infections. It is the same for those who are up to date with their vaccinations.
Meanwhile, vaccination continues to be the most crucial protection against severe illness.
Since reinfection may occur within 28 days after recovery from a previous COVID-19 infection, the AHPPC advises the public to reduce the reinfection period from 12 weeks to 28 days.
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 more than 28 days after ending isolation because of the previous infection should be managed and reported as new cases.
The AHPPC echoes the shared responsibility of the government, employers, and individuals in minimising the impact of COVID-19.
The committee says there are several ways to reduce COVID-19 transmission in the community and protect our health system and essential services, including:
Staying up to date with vaccinations
Adults aged 50 to 64 years old must receive a winter booster, according to the Australian Technical Advisory Group
Adults aged 30 to 49 years old can also get a winter booster
Wear a mask outside your house when in crowded, indoor environments, including public transportation
Make sure that indoor spaces are well-ventilated
Remain at home if you have COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, and get tested
Seek a PCR test to confirm whether you have COVID-19 so you can access oral treatments if eligible
Not visiting high-risk settings such as health care, aged care and disability settings or correctional facilities if you have COVID-19 symptoms
Practise good hygiene
The AHPPC said oral treatments are now available for COVID-19 patients. These can prevent severe illness in people at higher risk.