Next three months risky for virus spread

The next three months will be risky for Australians as the cold winter makes it harder to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Australian National University professor Peter Collignon has told a Senate inquiry the virus will remain a problem for at least two years.

“We’re going to have to keep up the things that we know work, which is predominantly keeping a physical distance, washing your hands and people who are sick staying away from others,” he said on Thursday.

“Probably winter will be more risky, so I worry about the next three months in Australia in particular.”

But he said it was easier to prevent the virus from spreading as it mainly spreads via droplets.

UNSW Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity professor Raina MacIntyre says Australians should embrace face masks as strict restrictions begin to ease.

She also says the government should begin planning for when a vaccine is found, in terms of who will be a priority to receive it.

Professor MacIntyre also warned that Victoria’s spike in cases could easily happen elsewhere.

“They have been exemplar with their response and it probably will happen in other parts of Australia,” she said.

“What we need is to work together across our differences to protect Australia.”

Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone will represent the professional association for doctors.

The AMA’s submission to the inquiry is largely supportive of the federal government and national cabinet’s health response so far.

“Any areas of concern for the AMA will likely be apparent post-pandemic, when the situation confronting the health sector, in particular the physical and mental health of the population, and the financial impact, will be better understood,” it says.

Representatives from the nursing union are also due to give evidence.

In a detailed submission to the committee, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation makes 18 recommendations to the government.

The union wants funding for telehealth services to continue, along with strict rules around aged care funding being used to protect residents from virus outbreaks.

The ANMF also wants paid pandemic leave and more work to be done in guaranteeing access to personal protective equipment, including potential local manufacturing.

Veteran ABC broadcaster Norman Swan, who is a qualified doctor, will also appear before the committee after becoming a regular commentator on the disease.

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