Vigilance urged amid outbreak
Omicron surge

Vigilance urged amid outbreak

With COVID-19 case numbers rising across the country, community leaders and medical professionals have urged the community to take precautions to avoid what could be a “perfect storm”.

AS Omicron subvariants surge, infections and hospitalisations rise alarmingly, healthcare systems are challenged, and Australians realise the 28-month-old COVID pandemic is far from over, Jewish communal groups are taking extra measures.

“This is an illness that is affecting us all,” Jewish Community of Victoria president Daniel Aghion stated this week. “We have all suffered or have family members who have suffered … While many of us are tired of dealing with this virus and do not want to return to the restrictions of the last two years, I urge all members of our community to take necessary precautions. Stay at home if you are unwell and isolate for seven days if you test positive.

“Wear masks indoors or when you are unable to socially distance. Mask wearing at shule, in line to buy a challah, or at school pick-up will help protect us all.

“It is vitally important that we are all up-to-date with our vaccinations. Everyone over five years old can be safely vaccinated against COVID-19 and adults over 30 are now eligible for a fourth dose.”

Hatzolah’s general manager Leon Landau reported emergency call volumes doubling since Delta hit the community in October 2021.

“The cause isn’t only related to patients suffering from COVID and its complications, but also complex scenarios, such as strokes and fractures in patients who are concurrently COVID-positive.”

He said Hatzolah has also been managing an increase in mental health cases and has built close working relationships with Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and other professionals to facilitate the best treatment options for its patients.

He urged people who are over 50, immunocompromised or who have a significant medical history to meet their GP and formulate a plan in case they contract COVID, including access to medications.

At Jewish Care, a representative said the leadership team is reviewing the situation twice weekly and each home is also looking at its own risk assessment. N95 masks and protective eyewear are mandatory for frontline staff providing care in Jewish Care’s disability programs and aged care, and each visitor has to produce a negative RAT.

A spokesperson for Emmy Monash Aged Care told The AJN it is permitting visitors, but monitoring PPE mask requirements on a case-by-case basis.

In Victoria on Wednesday, 906 people were in hospital with COVID, and there were 12,984 new cases over the previous 24-hour period.

In NSW, there were 82,365 confirmed cases this week, with 143,907 active cases across the state at the time of writing.

Community leaders and medical professionals in NSW have urged the community to take precautions to avoid what could be a “perfect storm”.

Richard Glass, president of Wolper Jewish Hospital said the community is at risk due to cold weather, the highly contagious COVID BA4 and BA5 strains, a virulent influenza season, circulating RSV and a healthcare system under “massive strain”.

Glass said safeguarding against serious illness by being fully vaccinated, including having boosters, receiving the flu shot, practising hand hygiene, wearing masks and taking a PCR test at the first sign of symptoms was now “more important than ever”, given that RAT tests are showing a concerning level of “false negatives”.

He said those eligible for anti-virals should access them immediately upon returning a positive COVID test.

“The general community has unfortunately become complacent … While for many people [COVID-19] might be ‘just like the flu’, for the elderly, vulnerable or unvaccinated in particular, it can be fatal,” Glass said.

According to NSW Health figures, there have been over 8500 deaths from COVID in the last six months, four times the number of COVID deaths in 2020 and 2021 combined.

Glass emphasised the importance of wearing masks in indoor settings where physical distancing is not possible, such as public transport, retail settings, cinemas and places of worship.

“Many people are asymptomatic, so wearing masks provides a very important additional layer of protection to both the wearer and those around them, particularly the aged and vulnerable,” he said.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger told The AJN, “Many members of our community have now experienced COVID firsthand and understand the risks associated with the disease.

“We do not want to unnecessarily alarm our community, but it is important that the community understands that the risk of reinfection, particularly during the winter months, remains high.

“We remind everyone of the importance of getting their booster shots. It continues to be the easiest way to protect you, your family and your community, and to continue to reduce the incidence of serious illness and hospitalisation. Please go and get boosted.”

With the elderly at a higher risk of serious illness, Montefiore is maintaining existing visiting times but visitors should check its website for the latest guidelines.

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