Concern more than 15,000 Australians could die from Covid-19 in 2022

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With currently more than 50 deaths a day Australia-wide scientific experts are concerned more than 15,000 Australians could die from the disease in 2022. File picture

AN independent collaboration of diverse scientific experts, OzSAGE, is alarmed that Australia is on track to reach about 15,000 to 18,000 deaths from Covid in 2022 and is calling for a public health campaign with a focus on the airborne nature of the disease.

On May 23 OzSAGE said deaths per day had been climbing and currently sat at more than 50 deaths per day.

Yesterday May 23 Australian Government Department of Health data showed there had been a total of 8110 deaths.

Today May 24 there were 68 deaths reported taking the total to 8178.

Six of those deaths were in WA, which recorded six deaths dating back to May 10 and were reported to WA Health yesterday – a man and woman in their 90s, two men in their 80s, as well as a man and woman in their 70s.

OzSAGE said if Australia registered 15,000 to 18,000 deaths from Covid in 2022 – that would be up to sixteen times the annual road toll (which was 1127 in 2021) and six times the deaths from the worst recent flu season (3024 deaths in 2017).

They said the prospect of re-infection loomed large for all Australians and that a significant drop in life expectancy had been noted in other countries since the beginning of the pandemic.

“With Covid cases still increasing and winter rapidly approaching, Australia must take protective action to prevent deaths and disability,” OzSAGE said.

“Hospitalisations remain high, with (almost) 3000 people admitted nationwide.

“This has resulted in overcrowded emergency departments and contributed to ambulance ramping and unacceptable ambulance response times, adversely affecting the provision of care for other health conditions.

On May 24 Australian Government Department of Health data showed the total number of deaths had risen to 8178.

“Higher Covid case numbers are leading to increased hospitalisation, suffering and death.”

On May 23 OzSAGE said over 70 per cent of the more than 7926 reported deaths from Covid in Australia to date had occurred in 2022 – and it was still only May.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that, of the deaths that occurred up to 30 April 2022, Covid-19 was the underlying cause of death 89.8 per cent of the time – that is, the overwhelming majority of deaths were from Covid, not with Covid.

“It is important to note that these deaths were not limited to elderly Australians but include 896 people aged 20 to 50 years and 13 deaths in children and adolescents.’’

OzSAGE member Dr Zoe Hyde said Australia’s experiment of living with Covid-19 had failed.

“The virus has shown us it’s nothing like the flu,’’ she said.

“We need to change direction and aim for a low Covid future with a vaccines-plus-ventilation strategy.’’

OzSAGE recommendations include a concerted public health campaign to educate the community on what individuals can do to help protect themselves from infection, with a focus on the airborne nature of Covid-19 – similar to the campaigns for skin cancer, road deaths and smoking.

It also recommends communicating the need for mask-wearing in all settings where transmission is likely to occur, such as indoor venues with poor ventilation and making P2/N95 respirators (high-quality masks) freely available to the community with a public campaign on their use.

They want renewed efforts to increase third and fourth dose rates and broadening eligibility for fourth doses.

On May 23 Australian Government Department of Health data showed there had been a total of 8110 deaths.

Also recommended is legislating standards for safe indoor air through ventilation and filtration, educating and providing toolkits for ventilation assessments (e.g. CO2 monitoring), offering grants to improve ventilation infrastructure, similar to the Victorian Government’s small business ventilation program (ventilation rebate) and developing detailed plans to guarantee healthy air quality, especially in high-risk places such as aged and residential care facilities.

The Information on Covid-19 and ventilation at home fact sheet says the aim of ventilation is to bring as much fresh air inside as possible resulting in the outdoor air diluting the indoor air – thereby reducing the number of virus particles in a room, home or building.

Fresh outdoor air can be brought in by using either natural or mechanical ventilation or a combination of these.

Not all air-conditioning systems provide fresh air or ventilation as some systems just cool down or warm up and recirculate the air that is inside so those systems do not provide adequate ventilation.

The factsheet says filters and air cleaners can also be used to reduce the concentration of viral particles.

“You may want to use a portable air cleaner/purifier,’’ the fact sheet says.

“It can be difficult to choose one that is suitable for a particular setting.

“However, make sure you buy one that uses HEPA filters (not HEPA-like or HEPA-style).

“Also make sure it is large enough for the area you will use it in.’’

The Information on Covid-19 and air purifiers/cleaners fact sheet says optimising existing mechanical or natural ventilation, wherever possible, should remain the priority over air cleaning.