An Australian epidemiologist has criticised both the NSW and Victorian Government’s pandemic strategy amid rising cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Sunday that Victoria would not be pursuing “Omicron zero”. He added he has been in touch with his NSW counterpart Dominic Perrottet and both have vowed to stay open ahead of Christmas.
“We don't think that makes any sense,” Mr Andrews said of returning to tighter restrictions in the face of Omicron.
But outspoken epidemiologist Dr Zoë Hyde from the University of Western Australia believes the premiers are “dead wrong” in their approach.
“The Omicron variant has torn up the rule book and risks pushing us back to 2020,” she tweeted.
“We should stamp it out.”
Dr Hyde added she has largely supported the Andrews Government’s strategies for stopping the spread of coronavirus throughout the pandemic which included strict, lengthy lockdowns.
She has also been among a small minority of experts consistently calling for Australia not to abandon a Covid zero strategy.
Dr Hyde told Yahoo News Australia in August, “there are no quick fixes for the pandemic”.
“Time and time again, we've seen countries around the world declare premature victory only to have to reimpose restrictions of one kind or another,” she said.
Dr Hyde at the time referred to Singapore, which had 80 pet cent of its population fully vaccinated, but had to reintroduce restrictions concerned about a growing rate of cases.
Among her ongoing concerns includes a lower vaccination rate in children, with early data indicating the Omicron strain could have more adverse effects in young children compared to earlier variants of the disease.
I’ve largely supported the Victorian government’s pandemic strategy. Daniel Andrews has done an incredible job under very difficult conditions. But he’s dead wrong about this. The omicron variant has torn up the rule book and risks pushing us back to 2020. We should stamp it out. https://t.co/R11maiop1u
— Dr Zoë Hyde (@DrZoeHyde) December 5, 2021
Experts optimistic Australia can handle Omicron
The head of a key medical regulator is quietly optimistic that Australia can deal with the growing spread of Omicron as new infections with the strain were recorded in NSW and the ACT on Sunday.
"When a new variant comes we have to check everything," the head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration John Skerritt told reporters on Sunday.
"But we're quietly optimistic, but I think it is important to be cautious, and emphasise we'll know a lot more in the next seven to 14, to 21 days."
NSW recorded two more Omicron infections on Sunday, bringing the state's total to 15, and further cases are expected to be confirmed.
In total, NSW recorded another 286 new cases of coronavirus, while a man in his 60s died from the disease.
The ACT also confirmed a second case of the Omicron variant, a close contact of the previous reported individual.
ACT Health reported six new Covid-19 cases on Sunday.
Victoria recorded another 980 virus cases on Sunday and a further seven virus-related deaths.
Professor Skerritt and Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Sunday that children aged five to 11 years will be able to get a vaccine next year.
Vaccine experts at the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation are also expected to give their nod of approval soon after the group's final checks, which Mr Hunt said should see vaccines rolled out from January 10.
Professor Skerritt says the vaccine will be one-third the dose of the adult version but have the same vaccine molecule and will come in a different colour.
"We are confident in the safety of this," he said.
Australia will join a number of other countries that have started vaccinating children against Covid-19 or have approved its use.
The US has been rolling out this vaccine for about three weeks, Canada has started its rollout, while European countries and Israel have also approved it.
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