Large Christmas gatherings not of concern despite Omicron spread
Australia’s health authorities are confident that a high vaccination rate will limit the spread of Covid-19 over the holiday period.
Omicron’s arrival in Australia has some asking the question if we should be reconsidering plans to hold large gatherings over summer.
But chief medical officer Paul Kelly told reporters on Friday that there was “no evidence” to suggest the vaccine wouldn’t be able to keep Aussies safe.
“I think this will spread around the world quite quickly. I suspect within the next few months Omicron will be the new virus in the world,“ Professor Kelly said.
“We need to take that one step at a time.
“Closing borders is a big decision for government not taken lightly. We have all the other measures in place – test, trace, isolate, all of those matters we have and crucially the vaccine, and we are one of the most vaccinated nations in the world.
“We have no evidence at the moment that the vaccine does not work, and as far as we know, the vaccine works against this new virus.”
More than 87 per cent of eligible Australians are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The first-dose figure sits at 92 per cent.
There are nine cases of the variant recorded in Australia, eight of which have been recorded in NSW. A seven-year-old child in Sydney’s northern suburbs is the youngest person known to be infected with Omicron.
Professor Kelly stressed it was still “very early days” but was cautiously optimistic based off the meetings he has undertaken with counterparts from Europe, Japan, South Africa and South Korea.
“It is only in the last few weeks this has been circulating in South Africa and elsewhere, and there is that delay from cases to hospitalisations and deaths,” he said.
“So we remain cautiously optimistic, but we need further information on vaccine efficacy and treatment efficacy.”
It comes as Australia’s vaccine advisory body ruled there was to be no change to the nation’s booster program despite concerns it might be needed to thwart the Omicron risk.
As it stands, Australians are encouraged to receive a booster shot six months after their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine – a recommendation still backed by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
““There is no evidence to suggest that an earlier booster dose of the current Covid-19 vaccines will augment the protection against the Omicron (variant),” Professor Kelly said.
“So in summary, no change.”
He also stressed early data had yet to indicate the variant increased severity of the virus.
“(South Africa) has no real evidence at the moment of an increase in severity. They are seeing a rise in hospitalisations in Pretoria and Johannesburg,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“But even hospitalisations they are seeing with the Omicron variant are not any more severe than previous waves.”
Originally published as Large Christmas gatherings not of concern despite Omicron spread
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