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Covid Australia 2022: Health chiefs in NSW, Queensland and Victoria want to bring back restrictions

A sudden surge in Covid cases has sparked calls to bring back lockdown-style restrictions – but the demands have sparked a furious backlash.

The number of infections in Queensland and Victoria rose by 60 per cent last week as the use of masks was again recommended, while a 40 per cent rise in NSW prompted a dire warning from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kerry Chant.

Health chiefs now fear the new wave of Covid could once again ruin Christmas plans for millions unless precautions are taken now, and the Australian Medical Association has called for a return to working from home.

“We hope it settles down before Christmas,” said Dr. Chant. ‘Now is the time to take protective measures.’

But the move to roll back restrictions has sparked outrage among weary Australians who want to put the pre-vaccine pandemic nightmare behind them.

2GB's Ben Fordham (pictured with wife Jodie Speers) has hit out at calls to bring back lockdown-style restrictions as Covid cases rise

2GB’s Ben Fordham (pictured with wife Jodie Speers) has hit out at calls to bring back lockdown-style restrictions as Covid cases rise

‘Australia has moved on’, stormed 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Monday. ‘We know the risks. We protect the most vulnerable.

“But we’re not prepared to curl up in a ball and suck on our thumbs every time it happens.”

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Official Covid case figures are now only released weekly instead of daily, and the latest NSW figures rose by 7,350 on Friday from 12,450 to 19,800, prompting Dr. Chant’s ominous warnings.

She now recommends masks in crowded, indoor settings and holding gatherings outside or with doors and windows open.

Queensland’s chief physician Dr. John Gerrard said the current wave could peak in the week before Christmas and warned the cycle of Covid waves could continue ‘for years’.

The Australian Medication Association has gone even further, with NSW AMA President Dr. Michael Bonning wants to return to working from home.

“I can confirm that we are entering the fourth wave of Covid,” said Dr. Chant.

The number of Covid infections in Queensland and Victoria rose by 60 per cent last week and by 40 per cent in NSW

The number of Covid infections in Queensland and Victoria rose by 60 per cent last week and by 40 per cent in NSW

The rising numbers prompted a dire warning from NSW health chief Dr.  Kerry Chant

Queensland's Chief Health Officer, Dr.  John Gerrard, has recommended the return of masks

The rising numbers prompted a dire warning from NSW health chief Dr. Kerry Chant (left) on the impact on Christmas plans, while Queensland health chief Dr. John Gerrard (right) has recommended the return of masks

‘The wave takes off with a certain trajectory, it’s going to be quite a steep wave and hopefully the drop will be just as steep.

‘That’s why it’s important that society takes these protective measures now, and I can’t stress the urgency – if you need to be vaccinated, you need to do it now.

“There is a feeling that the wave may well peak before Christmas and we may be on our way back.

“But the message is clear – this is an increased risk period for COVID, so now is the time to adopt the protective behaviors.”

ABC medical expert Dr. Norman Swan says the scale of the current outbreak could be even greater.

He said the current numbers were underreported as a result of people not testing, rapid antigen tests failing to diagnose the latest Omicron variant and people contracting the disease without showing symptoms.

Queensland's chief physician Dr.  John Gerrard said the current wave could peak in the week before Christmas and warned the cycle of Covid waves could continue 'for years' (pictured, doctors in full PPE in Melbourne in 2020)

Queensland’s chief physician Dr. John Gerrard said the current wave could peak in the week before Christmas and warned the cycle of Covid waves could continue ‘for years’ (pictured, doctors in full PPE in Melbourne in 2020)

ABC medical expert Dr.  Norman Swan says the scale of the current outbreak could be even greater

ABC medical expert Dr. Norman Swan says the scale of the current outbreak could be even greater

“The data is not reliable because it is voluntary – and the rapid antigen tests with the current variants are slow to be positive,” he told Radio National on Monday.

“You can count on far more admissions – and admissions are on the rise. The concern is that we will see another increase in the number of deaths.’

But the doomsday pronouncements have enraged many who fear the devastating loss of their livelihoods again in another shutdown.

“We seem to be in a bit of a cycle of self-sabotage,” raged Ben Fordham on his 2GB show on Monday morning.

“There are people who are determined to keep us hidden under the bed.

‘The Australian Medical Association wants us to work from home again. Seriously, some people haven’t been to work for the better part of three years.

‘We are only starting to see some of them back in the office and the AMA wants to send them back home.

‘This attitude has had a devastating impact on small businesses that rely on foot traffic, and the AMA wants it to happen again.’

Ben Foprdham criticized the Australian Medical Association for advocating a return to working from home (pictured, Melbourne's CBD under lockdown in October 2021)

Ben Foprdham criticized the Australian Medical Association for advocating a return to working from home (pictured, Melbourne’s CBD under lockdown in October 2021)

He hailed infectious disease expert Professor Peter Collignon for ‘keeping his head on straight’ and opposing mandates for working from home.

The professor told the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘It basically flattens the curve, which is not a bad idea, but you also have to balance this with the social and economic effects.

‘Are we going to live as hermits for the next five to 10 years?’

Fordham added: ‘Well, thank God for Professor Peter Collignon – that’s what we want to hear. We need a dose of common sense mixed in with all that doom and gloom.

‘We know that the Coronavirus is not going anywhere. We have learned to live with the virus, and we must continue to do so.

“Now is not the time to run and hide when more than 95 per cent have been vaccinated. More than 70 percent have received three doses. Five million have received a fourth dose.

‘The public will not come back to restrictions until Christmas.’

Health chiefs now fear the new wave of Covid could once again ruin Christmas plans for millions unless precautions are taken now (pictured, Sydneysiders enjoying a picnic in 2021)

Health chiefs now fear the new wave of Covid could once again ruin Christmas plans for millions unless precautions are taken now (pictured, Sydneysiders enjoying a picnic in 2021)

In the meantime, former deputy chief physician dr. Nick Coatsworth declined to talk about the latest wave because it is time to ‘move on’ from the pandemic

Victoria’s Covid case count has risen from 10,226 to 16,350 in just seven days, heralding the latest wave and raising fears of another lockdown in Melbourne after already enduring the longest Covid curfews in the world.

Tests have revealed that two new Omicron sub-variants BQ.1 and XBB are driving the latest spread of the virus.

But Victoria’s health chief Brett Sutton admitted the latest surge may be milder than previous waves, despite 41 Covid-related deaths in his state in the past week.

“There is currently no evidence to suggest that these subvariants cause more severe disease,” he said.

‘However, hospitalization rates are likely to increase due to waning immunity from previous vaccination and the ability of these new sub-variants to escape immunity from previous infections.

‘As we are in a well-established wave, increased community and public health measures will reduce transmission and the impact on illness, death and the health system.’

Victoria's health chief Brett Sutton admitted the latest surge may be milder than previous waves despite 41 Covid-related deaths in his state in the past week

Victoria’s health chief Brett Sutton admitted the latest surge may be milder than previous waves despite 41 Covid-related deaths in his state in the past week

He outlined a six-point plan for locals in the latest outbreak, including wearing a mask, being in well-ventilated spaces, indoors, getting vaccine boosters, getting tested and staying home if you test positive.

He added: ‘Protecting yourself is the best way to protect your family and community. If you don’t get Covid, you can’t spread Covid.’

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews insisted he had no plans to bring back the crippling restrictions that locked down his state over the past two years, saying it was time to

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews insisted he had no plans to bring back the crippling restrictions that locked down his state over the past two years, saying it was time to “move beyond” them

But Victorian Premier Dan Andrews insisted he had no plans to bring back the crippling restrictions that locked down his state for the past two years, saying it was time to “move beyond” them.

“As Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly has made very clear, this era of COVID exceptionalism must end and it has,” he said last week.

‘Victorians know what to do with this – they’ve done it and they’ve done it so well over the last three years.

“There will be fluctuations in the number of cases. Every government in the country has recognized that COVID will be with us in one form or another for quite some time.

“But we’re dealing with it in a different way now because you have to move beyond this.”