Australians have been warned to wear face masks in certain settings as Covid-19 continues to spread ahead of Christmas.
New South Wales chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said that while state had already reached its virus peak, it was still important to wear masks around those who are vulnerable to catching the virus, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
‘Wearing masks is an effective measure, but it is a personal choice, but think about those around you,’ she explained.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says COVID-19 case numbers remain high in NSW
‘We still request people to wear masks in hospitals and aged care facilities, and it is important that people comply with those requirements in those settings.
‘You can just do these little things that reduce the chances or the frequency of you getting Covid infections.’
Dr Chant emphasised the importance of people who were vulnerable to the virus and eligible for antivirals having a plan for how they would access the drugs if required.
‘Frail elderly and people with underlying health conditions are more likely to experience serious health outcomes with Covid, such as hospitalisations and death. And that’s why the antivirals are targeted at those groups,’ she said.
She said people needed to be organised in the event they were infected, as GPs would be operating on limited hours and not all PCR testing sites would be open over Christmas and the new year.
‘Rapid antigen tests are useful, but if you have symptoms and you test negative on a RAT you should not rely on that, particularly if you are eligible for antivirals we will urge you to get a PCR test.’
States and territories reported 112,219 new weekly cases on Friday, up slightly on the previous week’s total.
There were 232 COVID-19 deaths recorded across the country, also an increase on the past week.
Weekly case numbers ticked up in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT.
However, numbers fell significantly in both Victoria and WA.
University of South Australia epidemiologist Adrian Esterman said a nationwide peak was approaching but warned the data was based only on reported numbers.
‘One of the problems is we don’t have a good handle on how many cases there are,’ Professor Esterman told AAP.
Dr Chant has urged Australians to remain vigilant about Covid-19 as Christmas celebrations begin
‘All we have is the reported cases and they’re the tip of the iceberg because most people these days aren’t reporting it.’
Access to free PCR tests will be limited under changes to the national COVID-19 plan announced on Monday.
From next year, a referral from a medical or nurse practitioner will be needed for patients to receive a free PCR test at locations not run by a state or territory government.
Once the COVID-19 wave peaked, Prof Esterman said cases would likely decline slowly before another wave started, a process that would continue for the foreseeable future.
Authorities had ‘decided the Australian population has to live with COVID-19′ despite about 12 per cent of those infected ending up with long-term health problems,’ he said.
WEEKLY VIRUS DATA BY JURISDICTION:
* NSW: 40,695 cases, 74 deaths
* Victoria: 24,652 cases, 84 deaths
* ACT: 3018 cases, one death
* Queensland: 16,600 cases, 33 deaths
* Tasmania: 4045 cases, seven deaths
* SA: 10,754 cases, 21 deaths
* WA: 11,624 cases, 12 deaths
* NT: 831 cases, zero deaths