COVID in 2022: Is there room for optimism?

Burnet Institute

13 January, 2022

Australian governments must listen to expert advice and adopt more precautionary principles if the nation is to deal with the ongoing threat of COVID-19 in 2022, according to Burnet Deputy Director, Associate Professor David Anderson.

Associate Professor Anderson joined an expert panel on ABC’s RN Breakfast; with Professor Nancy Baxter, Head of the Melbourne University’s School of Population and Global Health and Professor Peter Collignon, from the Australian National University Medical School, to discuss whether there was room for COVID-19 optimism in 2022.

As the impacts of the new more infectious Omicron variant intensify around the country, Associate Professor Anderson said politicians must take a more proactive approach.

“We need to start learning from what we’ve already seen and there is a real danger of governments declaring success - mission accomplished.” - Associate Professor David Anderson.

“Things like indoor air quality and ventilation. People have talked about it. We’ve known for at least 18 months that COVID-19 is airborne. And yet there has been practically no investment in improving air quality in indoor settings,” he said.

“I am really worried about kids going back to school. Primary school kids who have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated yet, going back to settings where we haven’t made the investment to improve air quality.

“I can see this current outbreak of Omicron possibly lingering for months at levels that we are seeing now. If primary school children are going back into settings without those non bio-medical interventions, the physical interventions to help prevent spread, I think we are going to see a very tough six months ahead.”

Associate Professor Anderson said politicians and the Australian public need to realise that life won’t return to normal anytime soon, and that COVID-19 is likely to be an issue for around five to 10 years.

“It shouldn’t be this bad for that long because we will have better vaccines etcetera, but it’s not going to be ‘return to normal’ in time for the next election cycle for example,” Associate Professor Anderson said.

Associate Professor Anderson said the public should be sceptical about any politicians promising they can rapidly quash COVID-19 and quickly return life to normal as part of upcoming election campaigns.

“The thing I’d most like to see from politicians is evidence that they will listen to good advice, and I would really like to see policy makers adopting more precautionary principles,” Associate Professor said.

“When there were reports that Omicron was milder, there were lots of people and lots of politicians saying this is the answer to the pandemic, it’s going to fix all our problems. I’ve even heard it referred to as a naturally occurring vaccine. That was not the precautionary approach.”

“I really don’t think we can look forward to herd immunity in terms of stopping the spread of this virus until we have much better vaccines.”

Listen to the entire interview on RN Breakfast’s website.

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