Easing COVID-19 safety measures too quickly risks further infection, disease and burden on the health system, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has argued, as national cabinet prepares to meet today to consider major changes to the nation’s pandemic rules.
Top of the agenda is a push to reduce the length of the mandatory COVID isolation period from seven down to five days, and the possibility of scrapping masks on domestic flights.
Despite daily cases falling, the ANMF has warned that “as much as we all desperately want it to be – COVID is not yet over”. Any potential scaling back of pandemic safety measures needs to be supported by expert health advice, the union says.
“While we are slowly emerging from this current COVID-19 outbreak, we must not risk further infection, disease and increased burden on our health system by removing COVID safety measures too quickly,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.
“We saw the devastation caused when the former Prime Minister and NSW Premier last year insisted the country had to ‘open up and live with COVID’ and decided to ‘let it rip’. The subsequent wave of the Omicron variant ran rampant in the lead-up to Christmas causing enormous stress on our health and aged care systems, enormous disruption and thousands of deaths.”
Ms Butler has called on politicians to learn from their previous mistakes by ensuring all decisions are based on expert health advice, so nurses, midwives and care workers, and other health professionals, do not become overwhelmed, and can continue to protect the most vulnerable.
“Supporting and caring for the country’s most vulnerable is much more than personal responsibility, it requires a collective response led by well informed, committed politicians,” Ms Butler said.
“We’ve all been dealing with the pandemic for almost three years now and we are all COVID-fatigued, but unfortunately, it’s not over yet and may not be over for some time yet. Latest health advice is indicating that Australia is facing the very real threat of another wave of infections in late November-December.
As Governments start to ease COVID-safety protocols, the ANMF believes there should be a measured, staged approach, with enough flexibility for protections to be re-instated quickly, if required, as well as for specific settings and circumstances.
“For example, in some countries, where isolation periods have been lifted, mask-wearing is still mandatory,” Ms Butler said.
“That’s the type of sensible, considered approach we could adopt here.”