First advice from new expert body on reopening safely

The need for effective ventilation and a vaccines-plus approach are among the key recommendations of OzSage – a new multi-disciplinary network of Australian experts formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

OzSage aims to offer well-researched and robustly debated independent expert advice as an additional resource for federal and state governments, opposition, business, community and non-government agencies in Australia to achieve an exit strategy with the best possible health, social and economic outcomes.

Its members, including Burnet Institute Deputy Directors Professor Margaret Hellard AM and Associate Professor David Anderson, are drawn from frontline roles in a broad range of disciplines – from public health and infectious diseases to engineering and occupational hygiene, through to multicultural engagement and economics.

Recommendations in the group’s first preliminary advice paper include:

  • acknowledgement of the need to live with occasional outbreaks – not widespread disease
  • acknowledgement that vaccines alone are insufficient, and a vaccine-plus approach including contact tracing, masks and other non-pharmaceutical strategies will be required in the short-term, and
  • the need to meet vaccine targets for all population subgroups, including aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“It is increasingly recognised that COVID-19 impacts on populations with social and structural disadvantage,” Professor Hellard, an OzSage executive committee member, said.

“This includes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people with mental health issues, the homeless and people within the justice system.

“It is vital there is immediate extra effort to ensure these groups are vaccinated against COVID-19 and are socially and financially supported to help them get tested for COVID-19, and isolate and follow public health restrictions as required.

“In the longer run it is also important that we address the structural issues that put these groups at greater risk.”

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