With Australia’s death toll from COVID-19 having surpassed 10,000 from more than eight million reported cases, Burnet Institute Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC believes a change of attitude is urgently needed to address growing concerns over the transmissibility of the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants.
Professor Crabb told ABC Radio Melbourne Mornings program a ‘vaccine set-and-forget’ mindset and popular view that ‘COVID’s in the rear-view mirror’ has not served Australia well.
“The individual risk for most people is relatively low, so the mindset that I’m talking about, the casual mindset is totally understandable,” Professor Crabb told host Waleed Ali.
“But at a community level, where virtually every person in the community is going to get COVID, the numbers and impact then are huge, and that’s where this individual responsibility versus public civic duty thing kicks in.
“There are important health issues for every one of us who gets COVID, but the real thing is trying to protect the rest of our community.”
Professor Crabb said many people who’ve had COVID and recovered, think ‘what’s the big deal?’
“The big deal is, you’re very likely to get it again, and you’re likely to get it again after that, and you’re likely to get it again after that, and every time, we now know there’s cumulative damage to the individual,” he said.
Professor Crabb said that while restrictive measures such as lockdowns are no longer necessary to address the pandemic, Australia has the necessary tools and knowledge including:
- vaccines and the need to be fully vaccinated,
- continuing to test and isolate if positive,
- a focus on clean air and better ventilation, and
- the ongoing use of masks
“This is an airborne disease, so we want the places we go in to have clean air – and if it doesn’t have clean air, you need to wear a mask, and you need to be helped in that,” Professor Crabb said.
“Something we could try with all of these interventions … is the prime minister, the health minister, the premiers getting up and talking about the value of them, showing people how to use them, showing how people can get them.
“I think there’s a massive campaign that we could have about airborne controls and of masks that matches what we do for vaccines.”
Asked whether people could be relied on to wear masks in the absence of a mandate, Professor Crabb said: “You can’t mandate something, if you haven’t won the community over first as to why you’re mandating it.”
“We mandate road safety … with licences and drink driving and seatbelts, and so on, and we all accept that because we’re sold on the reasons.
“But we’re not sold on the reasons to do what we can for COVID – and that’s why that’s the most important thing. That’s the attitude change I’ve spoken about.”
Click here to listen to the interview in full.