Chief medical officer Paul Kelly has called on employers across Australia to consider their work arrangements and business continuity plans as new variants of the coronavirus continue to spread.
Kelly said in a statement released on Tuesday that the new variants known as BA.4 and BA.5 are spreading fast and that vaccination, while critical to avoiding serious illness, was not going to stop the spread of the new variants.
“This wave of infections is already leading to an increase in the number of people with COVID-19. This will increase pressure on our hospitals which are already experiencing high levels of patients, and absenteeism due to illness in staff,” he said.
“Due to the number of cases, we may also see a rise in the number of people dying with COVID-19, particularly among those who are at higher risk of severe disease, most notably people over the age of 80 and those who have not received all recommended vaccine doses.”
Kelly said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has repeated existing advice on reinfection periods, testing and isolation, mask wearing, vaccine boosters and treatments.
He said there were a range of issues that employers needed to consider.
“Employers should review their occupational health and safety risks and mitigations, and their business continuity plans. They should consider the feasibility of some employees working from home, wearing masks in the workplace and supporting employees to take leave when sick,” Kelly said.
“All of these recommendations are based on what we know works to either reduce the spread of the virus or protect those at highest risk of severe disease.”
Kelly said that people who were eligible for a fourth dose of a coronavirus vaccine should get one.
“I encourage everyone who is eligible for their fourth dose and who has not yet had it to make an appointment as soon as possible to receive it,” he said.
“I also remind any Australian who has not had a third dose of vaccine that two doses of the COVID vaccine simply do not provide adequate protection against severe disease. Having the recommended vaccinations for your age group or risk profile is the single most important thing Australians can do to prevent severe COVID requiring hospitalisation or even death.”