SYDNEY, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Researchers from one of Australia's most prominent medical institutes have called on the government to re-adopt COVID-19 strategies as the spread of Omicron continues to cause major individual and systemic disruption.
According to the most recent data from the Australian Government Department of Health, the nation has reported nearly 8 million cases and over 9,500 deaths as of June 22.
There were 32,982 new COVID cases recorded on Wednesday nationally, and 3,022 people are in hospital with 103 in intensive care.
In an editorial published on Thursday, Director and CEO of the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health (Burnet Institute) Brendan Crabb and epidemiologist Mike Toole argued for a return to stricter measures to reduce virus transmissions.
At the end of last year, the first cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant were detected in Australia, however policy makers, betting on the fact that the virus would be less severe and allow those infected to boost their immunity, went ahead with the nation's re-opening.
Since then, COVID-19 health measures have been progressively stripped away, and last week mask mandates in some Australian airports were scrapped.
Crabb and Toole said the return to normal life was sending the wrong message to the public given the reality of the current state of the pandemic in Australia.
Over 7 million COVID-19 cases have been registered in Australia this year, much higher than in the two previous years, they wrote.
"Tens of thousands have been sick enough to go to hospital and there have been 8,000 COVID deaths."
On top of this the researchers said that due to the constant evolution of the virus, people's past immunity was not holding up, leading to repeat, no less mild, infections.
In addition to putting greater effort on vaccinations up to date, Crabb and Toole proposed reintroducing high-quality N95/P2 masks in high-risk indoor settings and investing in improving indoor air quality.
They added that greater awareness and access should be provided for COVID-19 viral treatments that have been approved in Australia, such as Paxlovid.
On Wednesday, Australia's federal health minister, Mark Butler, said too many older Australians were dying from COVID-19 and that only 50,000 of the government stockpile of 1.3 million Paxlovid treatments had been accessed.
"Our research indicates that the vast bulk of the Australian population are not aware that these treatments exist," said Butler during a Wednesday press conference.
"Our Omicron experience, and the underlying science, both scream that the current high transmission situation is unsustainable," said Crabb and Toole.