If it seems like every second person you speak to has COVID at the moment, you’re not far off! And after digesting rapid-fire rule changes and advice around the C-word for the last three years, the disappearance of news and information when these anecdotal waves of infection crash can feel a bit discombobulating (or maybe you find it a relief – in which case you can probably scroll to the photo finish).
Monash University’s Professor James Trauer explains, “We are currently experiencing a significant wave of transmission in Australia. Testing has declined markedly and the daily number of cases doesn’t provide a clear picture of the extent of transmission any more. However, other data sources still give us a good sense. For example, wastewater surveillance and hospital admissions show a marked increase in infections over the last few months.
“Overall, the severity of COVID cases has decreased, with fewer people admitted to ICU than in previous years. This is attributable to high levels of population immunity, which is contributed to by both natural immunity and vaccination-derived immunity.
“COVID is now an ‘endemic’ infection, meaning that the infection cannot be eliminated and transmission occurs continuously. When immunity after infection is short-lived, endemic transmission occurs in peaks and troughs as immunity from previous waves fades. This is an expected feature of endemic COVID.”
And while there are no longer official rules in place to make anyone stick to them, these are the current guidelines from Healthy WA if you test positive to COVID:
The COVID-19 infectious period can vary, but most people are considered infectious from 48 hours before their symptoms start and for a minimum of 5 days, but you can be infectious for up to 10 days. COVID-19 cases should:
- stay home for at least 5 days and until your symptoms have resolved to prevent spreading the illness to others
- avoid close contact with people at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19
- avoid visiting high risk settings such as hospitals (unless your require urgent medical care or treatment), residential disability, mental health and aged care facilities, and other healthcare settings for at least 7 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
The WA government has introduced masks back into high-risk clinical areas for staff and visitors as of this week. Some people may continue to have mild or intermittent symptoms after their recovery from COVID-19. If you experience new COVID-19 symptoms more than 35 days after your last COVID-19 infection, you may have been re-infected and should test again for COVID-19. Positive rapid antigen tests no longer have to be reported.
Professor Trauer explains the importance of booster vaccines for those who need it: “Because immunity after infection is so short-lived, reducing transmission in the short-term will have little effect on the number of times people get infected with COVID over the course of several years. Therefore, our most important protection against the effects of COVID is immunity, which can be enhanced through vaccination.
“Anyone who meets ATAGI’s current recommendations for receiving a booster vaccine should strongly consider this.”