NSW COVID cases grow, Victoria COVID cases grow, QLD COVID cases grow, Omicron variant hospitalisations, ICU admissions grow, Ashes 2021 second test continues

As we reported yesterday, the architect of a report that underpinned the Morrison government’s COVID-19 response has urged Australia to keep some restrictions as concerns escalate over the Omicron strain.

Doherty Institute director Sharon Lewin called for the return of mask-wearing indoors and stopping large gathering at pubs and nightclubs.

As Linda Morris and Jenny Noyes reported, Professor Lewin was joined by Professor John Kaldor and Professor Greg Dore, epidemiologists at the Kirby Institute, based at the University of NSW, in a joint call for a rethink of the reopening plans.

Leading infectious disease expert, Professor Sharon Lewin.

Leading infectious disease expert, Professor Sharon Lewin.Credit:Simon Schluter

Professor Lewin was asked by ABC News 24 this morning about a push by the Premiers to speed up the schedule for coronavirus vaccine booster shots from five months after a second dose to four months. She was also asked whether the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation should advise that three doses are now required to be considered fully vaccinated against the virus.

“These are difficult decisions,” Professor Lewin said. “Australia has done incredibly well getting so many people their first two doses.


“At the moment there’s a gap of five months to get the third dose. We have to make that really easy for people to access. Certainly you get much better immunity after your third dose. You need that third dose for better protection against Omicron. And deciding whether that makes you fully vaccinated or not will be a decision for national cabinet.”

Professor Lewin said that the advisory group, ATAGI, “are weighing up a number of factors: how quickly your antibodies drop, and they start lower with AstraZeneca, and therefore they’ll be lower at four months, how much safety data we have at giving the booster earlier and ability to deliver it.

“We’re weighing all of these things up. We are learning from overseas the booster dose gives you that additional protection against Omicron that we want. These are difficult decisions being weighed up by all the best evidence available and availability of vaccines and that may well change the current recommendation of five months, it may well change in coming days.”

Asked about the language of “personal responsibility” being used by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who have both said people can choose to wear masks and impose other restrictions upon themselves without being told, Professor Lewin said: “Look, in an ideal world, of course we trust that people will do the right thing. However, rules are changing constantly.

People are confused. And they want to know what they can and can’t do. All along in this pandemic, we have had most of our policies informed by the best science, and very clear instructions what you and can’t do. We’re in a position at the moment where days really matter.

Having the right policy, right now, making it really clear to people what you can and can’t do, is something I strongly support. That includes a simple intervention like mask wearing, we’ve become very used to. I know it’s not the way we like to live but we have become used to it. We need leaders to tell us where and where we can’t wear those masks. My decision to not wear a mask doesn’t just affect me, it affects everyone around me.

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