Paul Kelly, Bruce Willett: Mandatory Covid-19 masks are not being reintroduced

Australia’s two largest employers, Telstra and Westpac, are instructing their employees to work from home whenever possible due to the rising number of Covid cases.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters on Tuesday that businesses need to “strike the right balance” in working arrangements.

“Businesses will continue to make these decisions. They need to be done for security reasons. But also for some people, we have to accept that they cannot work from home,” Mr. Albanese said.

Telstra is “strongly encouraging” its employees to work from home if they can, while Westpac said its employees no longer need to come into the office.

“Earlier this year, we introduced a green, yellow and red job scoring system to help us manage our workplace in a changing health environment,” a Westpac spokesperson said.

“Westpac’s workplace settings are currently marked in yellow, which means that those employees who can work from home can do so without having to be in the office.”

Both companies said they will help support employees who cannot work from home by maintaining Covid-friendly work practices.

“We have thousands of team members who cannot work from home, including many members of our retail team and field technicians who support our customers,” said Telstra chief executive Alex Badenoch.

“We are focused on keeping them safe, including promoting traditional COVID safety measures and supplying masks and rats where needed.”

Health experts and leaders have met to discuss reintroducing measures to stop the spread and reduce pressure on health services.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly “strongly recommended” that Australians wear masks in public places and consider working from home, but did not formally recommend mandatory masks.

But since the worst third wave of Omicron this year is yet to come, that cannot be ruled out.

“I recommended that we consider ways to increase the use of masks across the community and we left that up to others to consider the pros and cons of what and how to do it – that’s really up to others.” Professor Kelly told ABC Radio.

“Based on scientific evidence, we know that masks work to protect people and reduce the transmission of infection to others, that masks should be used indoors where there are other people.

“I think this is an important message for all leaders to reflect on their own actions and see what we can do to influence others.

“Mandates are controversial, as we know. I’m not going to speak to the mandate holders, but my advice is that the use of masks should increase.”

At the moment, about 5,200 Covid-19 patients are in hospitals across the country, and the number of hospitalizations could surpass the January record of 5,300.

Chairman of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in Queensland, Bruce Willett, said there was a high possibility that hospitals across the country would collapse under the pressure.

The best way to reduce excess pressure in the system is to work from home if possible and wear a mask, he said.

“There is a sense of complacency about Covid… And there is a sense that Covid is inevitable. I’m not sure that’s true,” Dr. Willett told NCA NewsWire.

“The risk is that if we all get it all at once, healthcare facilities risk becoming overwhelmed.

“The hospital system may just not be able to keep up if we don’t flatten the curve and treat people in a timely manner.”

Dr Willett said he was dismayed at the rate at which elective surgeries are being canceled again and said all Australians have a role to play in easing the strain on the system.

“I think working from home is something people should really think about if they can,” he said.

“I think it’s time to come back again, support each other and be there for each other.”

Infectious disease expert Dr Paul Griffin said that by working from home, wearing masks again and updating vaccinations, Australia could “get the upper hand” on the wave of viruses.

“If we continue on this trajectory, the situation will escalate,” Dr. Griffin said.

“When the system is overloaded, we struggle to take care of non-Covid things, and frankly, we get to the point where we have to put off non-urgent things…which creates a very heavy backlog. to catch up.”

On Tuesday, Health Minister Mark Butler said the government intends to do “everything possible” to ensure that Australia gets through the winter in a safe and healthy manner.

He acknowledged that the government was concerned about the level of hospitalizations, but lamented that the number of hospitalizations in intensive care units is significantly lower than in January.

“We are all concerned about this – no more than state health ministers who are responsible for the operation of their hospital systems,” he said.

“We remain in very close contact at all levels.”

Originally published as Westpac and Telstra advise employees to work from home during Covid surge