Nearly two-thirds of Australians are still complacent about the risk of Covid-19 infection despite a spike in case numbers and the emergence of new variants, a report has found.
As a string of new Covid-19 warnings ramp up across the country, a research survey conducted by Pfizer Australia found 60 per cent of Australians believed Covid-19 was a thing of the past.
The data compares community sentiment to how Australians were feeling a year ago when Covid-19 was rampant across the states and territories, borders were shut and many people were in and out of lockdown.
The research also found 61 per cent of people were less concerned about the impact of Covid-19 in their community, while about 46 per cent felt less concerned about their personal risk of serious illness.
Health experts have urged people to work from home where they can.
University of Sydney infectious diseases specialist and paediatrician Robert Booy said complacency during the current wave was concerning.
“Protection against Covid-19 infection requires several steps, including ensuring your vaccinations are up to date, practising Covid-safe behaviours and ensuring if you do test positive to Covid, you act fast by talking to your GP to learn if antiviral medicines are right for you,” Professor Booy said.
“Recent federal government data has shown Covid-19 still poses a very real risk to the health of our communities as we move into a new wave of infections, specifically to those at higher risk of serious illness.”
Recent government data for the week ending November 15 reported 75,590 cases of Covid-19 across Australia, with an average of 10,799 cases per day.
This represents a 38.3 per cent increase compared with the previous week.
There were 27,869 people across NSW diagnosed with Covid-19 during the same period.
Professor Booy said early testing was still the best measure for proper treatment and containment of the virus.
Last week, NSW Health changed its Covid-19 risk rating from green to amber, while Covid cases in NSW and Victoria have doubled in just a fortnight.
Queensland also changed its Covid-19 risk rating from green to amber earlier this month.
“The fact that one in three Australians are less likely to test for Covid-19 when they experience symptoms or consult their GP if they test positive compared to a year ago is of concern,” Professor Booy said.
“Testing earlier means people can seek medical advice sooner and can access antiviral medicines faster if they are eligible.”
The Actuaries Institute’s Covid-19 Mortality Working Group estimates deaths from Covid-19 in the first 10 months of 2022 are approximately 9800.
This makes Covid-19 the third leading cause of death in Australia for January-October 2022. It is expected to also be the third leading cause of death across the whole of 2022.
Pfizer country medical director Krishan Thiru said many communities were still experiencing the impact of Covid-19.
“These insights show that we need to bring Covid-19 back on the radar of Australians and we want to play our part in helping raise public awareness of the risk Covid-19 still poses and the role we all can play in helping protect ourselves and those most at risk,” Dr Thiru said.
Hearts4heart Founder Tanya Hall urged Australians to remain vigilant, especially those who remain in high risk areas or categories.
“This research shows that one in five of those at higher risk, like those over 70, those with health conditions like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely to test or see a GP if they experience Covid-19 symptoms,” she said.
“These people are more likely to suffer serious illness, including hospitalisation, from Covid-19, so it’s important these groups act fast by speaking to their GP if they test positive.”