Covid-19: Health Secretary Mark Butler issues dire warning

Australians have been warned to wear masks as the health minister expressly warns of a wave of Covid cases.

Australians have been ordered to shake off their Covid complacency as the health minister warned explicitly that the latest wave of Omicron could last another six weeks.

Ba. 4 and BA. 5 Omicron sub-variants account for the bulk of new Covid-19 infections in Australia.

Across Australia, more than 4,300 people have been hospitalized with the virus.

According to Mark Butler, federal modeling has shown that numbers and cases will continue to rise over the next four to six weeks.

“We will continue to see an increase in the number of cases, we will continue to see an increase in the pressure on our hospitals,” he told 3AW.

About 300 people die from Covid every week, but Mr Butler said he has no official forecast of how many people will die in the wave.

It comes as the country is also grappling with a simultaneous spike in flu cases.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said this could lead some states to delay elective surgeries.

“All this together has caused problems in our hospitals, and so (postponing elective surgeries) is a pretty standard thing to do at this time of year in the winter season,” he told ABC on Tuesday.

“With this increase in the new Covid variant, this problem has been exacerbated.”

State governments have moved quickly to implement the recommendation of the Australian General Health Board to reduce the period for reinfection with Covid-19 from 12 weeks to four.

But governments at all levels are reluctant to enforce mandatory mask-wearing indoors, preferring instead to “strongly encourage” people to hide.

Mr Butler suggested it was a symptom of community fatigue from Covid but voiced his support for masks in crowded spaces.

“I don’t see a situation where governments start kind of ordering people to do this (wear masks),” he said.

“I’m not sure it wouldn’t be counter-productive given the position the community is in.”

Meanwhile, the federal government has secretly confirmed that a program that gives retirees and concession card holders access to free rapid antigen tests will end at the end of July.

Mr. Butler said it was “the right time” to end the scheme, given the number of free RATs in the community.

“Retirees and concession card holders can still receive up to 10 tests by the end of this month, which must pass them within a certain period of time,” he added.

“There are still free RATs. There are so many RATS in the community right now.”

Originally published as Australians issue dire warning of rise in Covid cases