Australasia’s peak body for infection prevention and control has released a statement of wide-ranging recommendations to help better protect vital healthcare and community settings and the public from the ongoing threat of COVID-19.
University of the Sunshine Coast Lecturer in Nursing Dr Matt Mason, who is a Board Director with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, has co-authored the statement.
Dr Mason says COVID-19 remains an ongoing threat to public health as it enters its fifth year and more needs to be done.
Key recommendations include making it easier for workers to access testing, reinforcing the risk COVID-19 still poses, and support for people with COVID-19 to stay at home while recovering, especially those working with vulnerable communities and in health care.
“It is important that governments, businesses, and individuals continue to strive to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community and limit risks to the health of the community,” he said.
“The COVID-19 vaccination program was fundamental to reducing severe illness yet current Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advice limits the availability of booster doses.
“We call for the advice provided to be reconsidered, particularly for working age Australians.
“Herd immunity cannot occur if a large proportion of the community are not currently protected through appropriate booster doses.
“We strongly recommend that testing programs are maintained or improved so that the community has accurate, current information on which to make decision about their health.
“This should be linked to greater access to antivirals to treat infection. We encourage ongoing discussions with Government and employer groups regarding access to paid sick leave to allow people to stay at home when unwell.”
Dr Mason said the airborne nature of COVID-19 limited the effectiveness of advising hand hygiene only as means of control.
“Access to clean air will lower transmission of COVID-19. Improved ventilation in healthcare settings, schools, and other places where vulnerable people attend must be provided.”
He said businesses, education institutions and industry should also undertake ongoing assessments of their workplaces to ensure they remain COVID-19 safe, taking into account public health and other relevant advice.