Next 3 Months Risky for Virus Spread, University Professor Says

By AAP
June 25, 2020 Updated: June 25, 2020

Doctors have told a Senate inquiry that winter will increase the risk of coronavirus spreading in Australia and face masks should be widely adopted.

Australian National University’s 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.”

Professor Raina MacIntyre, from the UNSW Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity, says Australians should embrace face masks as strict restrictions 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.”

Veteran ABC broadcaster and doctor Norman Swan also backed the use of face masks.

He said their use could be transformative, and that people shouldn’t be allowed on public transport without them.

Swan noted that while the majority of cases in Australia have come from overseas, Victoria was now seeing community spread.

“That’s where the danger lies,” he said.

Swan is also concerned that if a vaccine is developed overseas Australia will be at the back of the queue.

Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone warned the nation is in the early stages of the fight against the virus.

Bartone encouraged senators to set up an Australian Centre of Disease Control.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler says transparency is needed for aged care funding, to ensure money is going where it’s supposed to.

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

In a separate inquiry, representatives from producer Detmold told politicians about their journey pivoting to manufacturing PPE.

Detmold could continue making 10 to 15 million masks per month in the future, but group manager Les Lewis told politicians that they should consider the whole supply chain.

If there’s a second surge of the virus in countries like China, Taiwan and Brazil where materials are sourced from, PPE production would be hurt.

Lewis is also concerned about a lack of local labs to test the quality of imported face masks, saying that some don’t meet Australian standards.

By Rebecca Gredley