Wollongong health expert fears a surge in COVID-19 cases | Illawarra Mercury

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A Wollongong health expert worries the NSW Government is “experimenting” by easing restrictions and “fears” the record 3057 COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday, will be broken many times in the weeks ahead. In fact Dr Chris Degeling from the School of Health and Society at the University of Wollongong, fears predictions that there will be up to 25,000 COVID-19 cases per day by the end of January, will prove to be right. Dr Degeling said the new variant Omicron was always going to come into the state and spread. “But because of the government’s strategy it is just going at a rate that is much faster than it would have if we just left everything in place like it was in the beginning of December,” he said. Read more: ‘Protect the vulnerable, Dom’: Wollongong scientist’s plea to premier “Basically [the government] are doing a bit of an experiment you would have to say because we don’t know enough about Omicron to be confident in the way they seem to believe that we should be around what the impacts will be of letting it run through the community. “The push towards personal responsibility assumes that people know what being responsible is and we just don’t know with this particular strain enough to be confident that you don’t need to be more cautious or sort of apply a more of a precautionary approach until more is known.” Dr Degeling understood why the government was reluctant to go back on its word and stop easing restrictions, especially after NSW recorded such high vaccination rates. “If you keep changing the rules, people lose faith,” he said. “it is a little bit of a sticky situation in that regard but you also have to acknowledge that the rules have changed because Omicron is a new part of the game. “[The government] obviously just don’t have the confidence that they can carry people with them or they have an ideological problem with it. “But the bottom line is, yes we are now leaving people who are more vulnerable to infection, whether that is because they can’t have vaccinations or are immuneocomprimised, to greater risk, because we are basically letting the virus run without any effort at suppression, except to ask people to do what they think is the responsible thing to do.” Read more: UOW battery breakthrough an energy revolution ‘game changer’ Dr Degeling credited many people in the community for doing the right thing by avoiding as much as possible large gatherings and trying to do more things outside. But he feared it was a “risk” for the government to assume people in the community understand the difference between the Delta and Omicron variant, “because we don’t know yet”. “I don’t think it would have been too hard for them to just leave it as it was for just a couple more weeks. Everyone was getting quite used to the idea. It would have engendered a bit of a loss of faith but at the same time it probably would have slowed the spread of Omicron a bit,” Dr Degeling said. “Some pessimistic modelling around suggests that we will get more than 10,000 cases per day by Christmas and up to 25,000 per day by the end of January. It’s not slowing down any time soon.” The Illawarra Mercury newsroom is funded by our readers. You can subscribe to support our journalism here. Sign up for breaking news emails below …


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