NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has issued a strong message on mask-wearing as the state is hit by a Covid-19 wave in the lead-up to Christmas.
The state government is not looking to return to mandated mask-wearing as a method to combat the rising cases.
“No, we’re not looking back … We led the country, we were the ones that were taking everybody from overseas for WA because they locked their borders, for Queensland, for Victoria,” Mr Hazzard said.
“We know it’s increasing; we’ll see a peak towards the end of this month, early December or moving into December.
“The short message here is we have to live with Covid.”
NSW saw 19,800 new cases in the seven days up until November 10, according to NSW Health – thousands higher than the 12,450 reported the week before.
Mr Hazzard’s comments come after Western Australian authorities did not rule out returning to mandated mask-wearing as Covid case numbers spike.
The state’s chief health officer, Dr Andy Robertson, declined to rule out a return of restrictions, as he warned WA was still weeks away from the peak of its fresh wave.
“Face masks is something we would consider,” Dr Robertson told The West Australian.
“There are always options we could look at if, for example, we got a variant that was a lot more severe or a lot more people were getting seriously unwell.”
But Dr Robertson said there was no immediate push or plan to return to masks, with health authorities currently only “strongly encouraging” mask-wearing and urging anyone unwell to stay at home.
Mr Hazzard rebuked WA’s decision to not rule out mask-wearing.
“We struck the balance all the way through with Covid and our economy is booming as a result; we are doing well,” he said.
“What do they do in WA? Well, no disrespect meant, but they put a gate across the Nullarbor.
“If they want to do that, that’s their business.
“I’m not going to criticise what they’re doing, but it’s not what we’re going to do.”
He did urge NSW residents to be careful, with the state’s Covid rates surging.
“People in NSW know how to live with this virus and we will continue to live with it now, and we’ll be cautious and I would encourage people to be cautious,” he said.
A “soup” of Omicron variants, including BA.5, BA.2.75, XBB and BQ.1, is driving up case numbers across the country, all with the ability to escape immunity, according to NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant.
“The wave is taking off with some trajectory; it will be quite a steep wave and hopefully the decline will be equally as steep,” she told ABC.
While Western Australia has not definitively ruled out a return to restrictions, Australia’s CMO, Paul Kelly, said it was “not likely”.
“You know, that’s not my decision, but I don’t think that (fresh restrictions are) likely,” Professor Kelly said on Sunrise.
“My advice at the moment is to be alert but not afraid – I think that would be a good way to look at it.”
Australia’s fourth wave has “several causes” and comes “just in time for Christmas”, according to University of South Australia chair of biostatistics Adrian Esterman.
“Many people had their last dose of vaccine over six months ago and by now have comparatively little protection against symptomatic disease,” Professor Esterman said.
Here’s how the rest of the country is approaching restrictions.
Residents in South Australia are strongly recommended to put on a mask in indoor places and on public transport amid rising case numbers, however Premier Peter Malinauskas says there is “no need” to put further restrictions in place “at this stage”.
“(We have) no plans to bring back restrictions, but we are actively monitoring the situation on hospitals,” he said.
“In terms of Covid-19, yes, case numbers continue to go up; what we watch closely of course is the impact that has on the health system.
“In terms of events and restrictions, there is no information we have at hand to suggest that anything will change any time soon.”
Queensland is currently at an “amber” level on its traffic light system, meaning there are moderate rates of community transmission in the state.
It is recommended people wear masks indoors, on public stransport, if they’re older or at risk, and in healthcare settings.
Queenslanders are also being urged to work from home in an effort to combat the rising curve of cases.
Working from home when possible could be a way to slow the wave, infectious diseases expert Dr Paul Griffin told the Courier Mail.
“I think, particularly where the job includes being in proximity to large numbers of people, that it would be wise whenever transmission increases to work from home at least for a proportion of time,” Dr Griffin said.
“It’s a simple strategy that we’re probably going to recommend periodically whenever we encounter these waves as they continue.”
Victorians are recommended to wear masks indoors (but it is not mandatory), if someone becomes infected with Covid-19 or if they are a close contact of a positive case.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton has also recommended Victorians protect themselves by getting their booster dose, making sure they are getting good air circulation indoors, getting tested if they have symptoms and staying at home if they have Covid-19 alongside maskwearing.
Story Credit: news.com.au