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COVID-19 - Current Situation

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Tags: COVID-19

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I rise tonight to talk about the 746 people who, we know from the current statistics, contracted COVID-19 in Tasmania in the last week. Surely, a gross underestimate by any knowledgeable professional, because people are no longer required to get a PCR test, and PCR tests are not publicly available.

I also want to respect and acknowledge the three people who died in the last week, and their families, and the 293 938 Tasmanians that we know of, who have so far been infected at least once with this highly damaging virus, the coronavirus.

What we know is an underestimate. We are coming to understand, every day, how serious infection with the coronavirus can be once the post-acute phase is over. There is no doubt that the vaccines that we have, if people keep up to date with their boosters, reduce the risk of a serious acute disease. I hope everyone in the Chamber has had a booster in at least the last six months. However, it does not reduce the risk of infection and it does not reduce the risk of the damage that occurs to a substantial number of people once they have been infected with the virus. We know that after infection a second time, the damage to organs in the body substantially increases.

This is an airborne virus, and it is a virus that affects the vascular system, and the respiratory system. It affects every organ in the body - the brain, the kidney, the lungs, the heart, the reproduction system. It causes blood clots that flow through the vessels, block vessels and cause untimely, early and unexpected deaths, with such an increase in cardiovascular disease and particularly in heart attacks occurring amongst young people - people who have had their lives truncated from what is, largely, an avoidable disease.

We are very concerned that the Premier continues to spread the misinformation that the COVID-19 pandemic is over. It is so far from over. We wish it was the case that the virus was not so clever; that it was not able to dodge the vaccines that we are dutifully taking; but the fact is, it can. It is designed to evolve and to find every possible way to get into our systems.

We know that people who have long COVID - and it can be 10 per cent or 20 per cent, the figures are changing because the available research is still in the early stages. Sixty per cent of the people who get long COVID will have symptoms, and 60 per cent of them will have organ damage more than one year after they have been diagnosed with long COVID. This is not just symptoms that people might dismiss as tiredness; this is demonstrated organ damage in two-thirds of the people who have been diagnosed with long COVID more than a year after that diagnosis.

In Australia and around the world, we have an incredibly high excess mortality rate. It was reported that last year in Australia, we had at least a 10 per cent increase in the number of deaths that we normally would have in the year. That has been attributed to COVID-19. That is an enormous increase in loss of life. It is a jaw-dropping number; a magnitude so great, that is has completely disappeared and gone under the radar. It is almost as though we cannot comprehend the impact this is having on our society. Except, if we look around at businesses, shops, hospitals and aged care - every single part of our society - we find that those organisations and businesses struggle to have people turn up to work. They struggle to find people because of an enormous number of people who are suffering from the effects of long COVID - who are inexplicably exhausted; who have had their eyesight damaged; who are unable to get out of bed - and if they can, they can only walk to the front gate and back.

Many people report symptoms like this, six months or a year after an infection. This is not just something that happened last year or the year before. This is something that is happening in Tasmania today. This is not a virus that is like the flu. It is nothing like the flu. Last year, 1700 people were hospitalised with the flu in Australia; but in just one day last year, 5430 people were hospitalised from COVID-19 in Australia. There is no comparison between the flu and coronavirus, expect they are both viruses.

We come to the Government's winter strategy, and it is desperately and woefully, a piece of misinformation. Compared to the Victorian steps, it does not say anything about masking; ventilation; isolating yourself; taking care of yourself in a workplace and making sure you do not infect other people.