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New coronavirus strain shouldn’t make people ‘worry’ about COVID-19 again, World Economic Forum data suggests

The World Economic Forum has reported that the new strain of coronavirus should not lead people to ‘worry’ about a return to pandemic conditions.

<p>Throughout the pandemic, all-cause excess mortality in residential aged care was below expected numbers in 2020 and within the expected range in 2021. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

Throughout the pandemic, all-cause excess mortality in residential aged care was below expected numbers in 2020 and within the expected range in 2021. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • The latest data, released on November 9, 2023, revealed 2,481 active COVID-19 cases in 334 active outbreaks in residential aged care facilities across Australia
  • From July 1, 2023, to November 4, 2023, COVID-19 was recorded as the cause of death in 1.2 per cent of all deaths of permanent residents in aged care facilities
  • The ‘Pirola’ variant of coronavirus has been observed in several countries around the world, including Australia, as the number of COVID-19 cases has risen again

 

The World Economic Forum has reported that the new strain of coronavirus, ‘Pirola,’ is not causing more severe illness than previous variants and that existing tests and medications used for COVID-19 remain effective.

Pirola, known as variant BA.2.86, has over 30 new mutations and has been discovered in several locations around the world. However, according to the international and independent peak body, research has indicated that people don’t need to ‘worry’ about COVID-19 for now based on the spread of Pirola. The WEF has still advised people to remain vigilant about the spread of disease, as initial research requires further investigation.

However, the WEF has confirmed that recommendations may change based on further scientific testing, as it is believed that Pirola may be more capable of causing infection and evading vaccines.

Older age remains the biggest risk factor for severe COVID-19 disease and vaccination offers added protection to help reduce the risk of severe illness or hospitalisation of aged care residents.

Approximately 66,700 aged care residents have received a booster dose in the last six months, with roughly 189 aged care residents receiving a booster dose in the week leading up to November 8, 2023.

Outbreak and case monitoring of residential aged care facilities is conducted by the Department of Health and Aged Care, with the latest report published on November 10, 2023.

Although the World Health Organisation announced the end of the emergency phase of COVID-19 in May of 2023, the WHO continues to coordinate the global response.

Australia’s national response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be the subject of an independent inquiry to better protect and prepare the country for future crises. However, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner has criticised the inquiry’s terms of reference for not having a specific focus on human rights impacts and for excluding the actions of state and territory governments.

Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay said that while she welcomes the inquiry, she is concerned that the actions taken by states and territories will not be directly addressed.

“Lockdowns, border closures, school closures, mask mandates and many other aspects were the domain of state and territory governments and to not examine these as part of the inquiry means it will be harder for us to improve our response for future pandemics,” Ms Finaly said.

“The lack of a stated focus on how Australia’s [COVID-19] response impacted on the human rights of people is also concerning.

“The policy decisions taken by all governments — as well as the implementation of those decisions — had significant human rights implications for people here in Australia and overseas.

“These may end up being considered by the inquiry but not having human rights explicitly part of the key terms of reference is disappointing.”

 

For more information about COVID-19 recommendations, please refer to the Department of Health and Aged Care to stay up-to-date. The Communicable Diseases Network Australia guidelines for prevention, control and public health management of outbreaks of acute respiratory infection in residential care facilities are available online.

Are you up to date with your booster vaccinations? Let the team at Talking Aged Care know and subscribe to the newsletter for more informative news.

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