You’re on your own: Health minister talks up personal choice in fight against Covid

The federal health minister has called on Australians to take responsibility for their own health in the face of a third wave of Covid-19 sweeping the nation, with hospitals starting to cancel elective surgery to cope with an expected influx of patients struck down by the virus.

Jul 08, 2022, updated Jul 08, 2022
As a third wave of Covid-19 hits Queenaland, federal Health Minister Mark Butler says people should take personal responsibility for their own health.

As a third wave of Covid-19 hits Queenaland, federal Health Minister Mark Butler says people should take personal responsibility for their own health.

While a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose has been expanded to the wider population, some experts are calling for more to be done on the cusp of a fresh Omicron wave.

However, Health Minister Mark Butler said experts believed Australia has moved beyond the realm of lockdowns and mask mandates.

“The message is ‘take responsibility, make your own choice’,” he told the ABC on Friday.

“We’re deep into the third year of the pandemic and we need to make sure that people feel they’re able to take control of their own circumstances.

“That’s why I encourage people to consider wearing a mask if they’re indoors and they’re not able to socially distance.”

He was speaking as Queensland’s biggest hospitals began to suspend non-urgent surgeries and other operations ahead of the peak of the latest Covid-19 wave.

Another seventeen people died with the virus in Queensland on Thursday and there were 697 people being treated in hospital with 15 in intensive care.

The state has at least 39,800 active Covid-19 cases and hospitals have been given permission to postpone elective surgeries before the wave peaks in July-August.

The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, the Princess Alexandra Hospital in south Brisbane and the Gold Coast University Hospital have suspended all “non-urgent” activity.

Metro North Health says the halt also applies at Prince Charles, Redcliffe and Caboolture hospitals.

From Monday, Australians aged 30 and over will be able to get a fourth vaccine dose – or second booster – with the country’s leading immunisation group expanding eligibility to an extra 7.4 million people.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended those over 50 receive a second booster, and also expanded access to those aged between 30 and 49, without issuing a formal recommendation.

Brisbane surgeon Dr Chris Perry, a former president of Australian Medical Association Queensland, said hospitals would still be able to do urgent elective surgeries.

“Remember that elective operations aren’t useless operations, they’re operations which are necessary for the health of a person, but don’t need to be done tomorrow or next month,” he told ABC Radio.

Perry also urged people to get a booster after the government said only 63 per cent of those eligible were up to date and less than 50 per cent of eligible Queenslanders aged over 65 have had a fourth jab.

“I’ll be lining up this week or next week for a fourth shot … because this virus could still make me really quite unwell,” he said.

“Even if you’re relatively young, it can give you long Covid, it can make you just transmit it more, or get sicker.

“And the vaccines are really, really well tolerated, so the figures are out there, if you’re not getting vaccinated, you’re just playing Russian roulette with your own life.”

InQueensland in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

University of South Australia epidemiologist Adrian Esterman said it was the “right time” to expand the fourth-dose rollout, though he acknowledged the additional shot was not essential for those under 50.

“Just because the evidence isn’t there doesn’t mean it won’t benefit them; it just means we don’t know,” Professor Esterman told AAP.

“We’re getting a third wave of Omicron just starting … we’ve got cases going up, we’ve got hospitalisations going up, and unfortunately we’ve got deaths going up.

“Our hospitals are creaking at the seams and, on top of that, we’ve got a massive flu season.

So if it’s not now, then when?”

He said giving the booster to people in the younger age bracket will mean fewer get infected and pass the virus on to older Australians, ostensibly meaning fewer end up in hospital.

Prof Esterman does not believe fourth doses will be offered to Australians under 30 any time soon, particularly when Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax are developing new vaccines based on the Omicron strain.

He said other Covid-curbing priorities for state and territory governments should include ramping up messaging to increase third-dose take-up, reintroducing indoor face-mask mandates, and ventilation audits of businesses and offices.

While welcoming the expanded eligibility, infectious diseases physician Paul Griffin said it was not a “complete solution”, and echoed the importance of getting already eligible people up to date with their additional doses.

“We also need to reinforce the basic measures that helped so much early on in the pandemic,” he said.

“Including mask wearing, social distancing and a basic awareness of other risks, including ensuring adequate ventilation.”

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy