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Statements From Health Ministers On Australia’s COVID-19 Situation

Statements from federal and state health ministers on Australia's Covid-19 situation.

Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler.

It’s clear the slow vaccine and booster rollout meant not enough Australians were protected for the Omicron variant.

The Albanese Labor Government is committed to increasing booster uptake and working with states and territories to protect the health of Australians.

South Australian Health Minister Chris Picton

“COVID is still a very serious disease and being vaccinated is your best defence to protect yourself and your family from severe impacts.

The Malinauskas Labor Government has already opened up 180 hospital beds in just two months to help manage the increase in COVID and flu admissions.

In the state's first winter demand strategy in four years, the Government is opening 80 extra beds on top of 180 more beds that have already been opened, as well as boosted virtual care and community care to avoid having to go to hospital, and free flu vaccination funded by the State Government in addition to expanded COVID vaccine campaigns.

Our Government has also launched a hard-hitting advertising campaign encouraging South Australians to get their third dose.

While the vast majority of South Australians received their third dose earlier this year, this campaign is all about talking to a harder-to-reach cohort.

The campaign is also motivating other South Australians to get their COVID vaccines, including our most vulnerable to get their fourth winter dose.

SA Health data tells us that from May to June as the campaign has been running, the percentage of eligible people who received their fourth dose rose to 72.7%, an increase on the previous month’s rate of increase.

Important restrictions for high-risk settings such as aged care, hospitals and disability are still in place where there are most at-risk populations.

Our Government has also rolled out more than $500,000 worth of air purifiers across South Australian schools to help minimise classroom disruptions caused by COVID-19.

These air purifiers are just one step we’re taking to help stop the spread of COVID-19 – along with a new school vaccination program and capital works improvements to classrooms to improve ventilation.”

ACT Government spokesperson

Do you agree these current hospitalisation and death rates from Covid-19 are unacceptable?At this stage of the pandemic, we are all learning to live with COVID-19 in our society. It has become part of our lives worldwide. The ACT Government is saddened by the death of anyone with COVID-19 and offers its condolences to families and friends who have lost a loved one with COVID-19. The ACT Government has worked hard to minimise the number of deaths and the impact on the healthcare system. Out of 138,407 cases of COVID-19, we have lost 68 lives.

What if any action are you planning to combat increased hospitalisation and deaths from Covid-19?As part of ACT Health’s winter wellness campaign targeting respiratory illnesses such as the flu and COVID-19, the ACT Government actively promotes COVID Smart behaviours within the community including encouraging residents to get vaccinated from COVID-19 and the flu, continuing to wear masks, practising good hand hygiene and physically distancing where it is possible to do so. The ACT also still has a number of health directions in place, which includes mandatory masks on public transport and in high risk settings such as hospitals, residential aged care facilities and correctional facilities.

What are you doing to increase Covid-19 vaccination rates, in particular 3rd doses?The ACT’s vaccination rates are extremely high and the ACT Government has an ongoing commitment to continuing to promote uptake of vaccinations for COVID-19 and flu, which includes a focus to ensuring access to vaccination for people with disability, additional needs or barriers to mainstream heath care options through our Access and Sensory clinic and Equity to Access program.

What action is planned to improve ventilation in federal, state and territory government facilities particularly in schools?ACT Health has provided a range of health advice on ventilation in the workplace as part of being COVID smart. This includes encouraging working outdoors where possible, using large, well ventilated indoor spaces, and improving ventilation via natural or mechanical means.

The ACT Government also has work health and safety procedures in place for ACT Government workplaces and actions to improve ventilation have been implemented in conjunction with a range of COVID-safe measures. This includes wearing masks indoors in the workplace when not at your desk, seating appropriately spaced, and encouraging working from home arrangements where appropriate.

ACT public schools are continuing to take sensible steps to safely operate while also managing the risks of COVID.

The Education Directorate has worked with each ACT public school to develop an Indoor Air Quality Plan. The directorate has mapped the type of ventilation in each of our more than 3,500 learning and teaching spaces that have ventilation provided by either natural or mechanical means. Natural ventilation is provided through windows or louvres, while mechanical ventilation is provided by the school’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

Knowing the types and levels of ventilation in every learning space allows us to plan and provide guidance on how to operate naturally ventilated spaces and balance the use of windows and louvres to provide ventilation.

Where our Indoor Air Quality Plans identify teaching and learning spaces that rely on natural ventilation, consideration will be given to balancing ventilation and thermal comfort during colder weather. Depending on the comfort levels in naturally ventilated classrooms, this may mean running heating systems while also having windows open to ensure both warmth and adequate ventilation.

Each school’s website provides information about how it is handling ventilation as well as its Indoor Air Quality Plan.

WA Government spokesperson

Western Australia continues to have a very different COVID-19 experience to that of other states and territories.

We kept our controlled borders in place while we got our vaccination rates up. This meant we significantly reduced the number of serious illnesses and hospitalisations, kept people out of ICU and limited the number of COVID-19 deaths.

WA’s world-leading vaccination rates were crucial in delivering our soft landing during the Omicron outbreak.

More than 98 per cent of our population is double dose vaccinated.

Our third dose rates for West Australians aged 16 and over is more than 82 per cent and this continues to increase.

The Department of Education engaged an occupational health physician who specialises in ventilation to develop a ventilation strategy for WA public schools.

This strategy was endorsed by the Chief Health Officer, and every WA public education facility classroom has had a ventilation plan in place since the beginning of the 2022 school year.

In addition, the advice of the occupational health physician was shared with Catholic and Independent schools to enable them to implement similar strategies.

The strategy prioritised natural ventilation as most effective and where not available mechanical ventilation.

Where adequate ventilation could not be supplied by natural or mechanical means, air purifiers fitted with HEPA filters were provided.

In addition to the air purifiers distributed to classrooms assessed as requiring one, the Department has now provided additional supply to schools in response to the cooler weather and their specific needs.

Placement of air purifiers containing HEPA filters will change during the course of the seasons in different parts of WA across any one year.

A range of strategies are in place to protect staff and students at WA schools, for example increased cleaning arrangements, staff vaccinations to protect themselves and their colleagues, and enhanced ventilation in classrooms.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath

"Queensland has overseen some of the lowest hospitalisation and death rates in the country per population, however COVID is still a dangerous disease and that is why we continue to encourage vaccination against COVID-19. We are very pleased to see our first dose rates reach 94 per cent of the eligible Queensland population aged 16 years and we continue to promote booster doses and child vaccination rates.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the Queensland Government’s focus has been on preventing widespread transmission of the virus through decisive public health measures and vaccination.

“This approach has been very successful at preventing deaths and serious illness, stopping our hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, and protecting the most vulnerable.

“Vaccination is our best protection against COVID-19. In Queensland we have observed a higher number of deaths among unvaccinated people, compared with those who are completely or partially vaccinated.

“Queensland continues to adapt to the changing COVID-19 situation across the state by providing vaccines and booster doses, free flu vaccines for all Queenslanders, maintaining public health directions to protect some of our most vulnerable.

“We strongly encourage all eligible Queenslanders to receive the flu vaccination.

“In relation to ventilation, we continue to take the advice of health professionals as to the necessity of these types of actions.”