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COVID-19 - Effects on the Human Body

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Tags: COVID-19

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I want to make some comments about the concerning effects of COVID-19 infection in the human body. I want to return to some of the things the minister provoked by his comments earlier.

For the first time that Ms O'Connor or I can remember he uttered the words, 'long COVID-19'. This is the first time we are aware of that long COVID-19 has been discussed since the start of this pandemic in any meaningful way. There has been stony silence from the Premier, from the Minister for Health, from departmental staff, from the secretary about long COVID-19, about the concerns of Tasmanians about the impacts of the rampant COVID-19 transmission and the large number of people who have now become infected it. The research is clear that COVID-19 in the body can have what is called long COVID-19 effects. It can remain in the system and cause long term complications at a later date.

Why is the Government refusing to acknowledge the reality of long COVID-19, the reality of the long-term consequences for a large proportion of people who have been infected with COVID-19, regardless of whether those people end up in hospital or not. Some 37 per cent of people, according to the research from Cell Reports, reported by the OzSAGE group of Australian experts, independent, unpaid experts, epidemiologists, most of whom are professors and doctors of expertise in their area.

The only reason that the Government does not talk about it that I have been able to conclude is because of money. It is the only reason that make sense. Once you acknowledge the potential health impact of this virus, once you take responsibility for that then you are required to do something about it. Doing something about it takes resources. The minister pointed to that, very clearly, in the comments that he made earlier. He said that long COVID 19 is basically something for GPs to manage. They will manage it. It is the GPs' problem. Ergo, it is Commonwealth funding. It is an issue for GPs, one-on-one again, individualising the situation and the responsibility, taking it away from the responsibility of the Health department, the resources of this Government and looking only at the single measure of whether a person ends up in hospital. The secretary of the department, Kathrine Morgan-Wicks confirmed that in her comments to ABC this week. She said:

We will closely watch, not just the case numbers, we are closely watching the hospitalisations and the ICTU rates. It is the real tell in terms of the impact.

Well, it is the real tell from Ms Morgan-Wicks' comments about what the priorities of this Government are. They are only focused on the number of people in hospital. They only care about the number of people who are taking up a hospital bed, in ICU, or in ventilation. They do not give an absolute toss for the 53 000 people who have been infected so far, each day and counting - another 1000 at the moment are being added to that number. An extraordinary proportion of whom, 19 240, I calculate, if you just look at the figure, the average estimate figure of a person who has a risk, according to the science, of going on to have some type of future complication or some sort of long COVID-19 symptoms from being infected with the virus. It may be another 1000 tomorrow. The great majority of them are people who have not had an opportunity to be vaccinated. They have not had an opportunity to take the precautions that we know will reduce their risk of going on to have long COVID-19.

If the Government takes this seriously as being an airborne transmission virus, which it is, then the Government is required to have an education program for Tasmanians to tell us how to use our masks effectively; to educate us about why we need to have N95 or P2 masks and not cloth masks and not surgical masks. These are not good enough. They do not provide the high level of protection that we deserve. It is what is required to protect us.

It would mean that the Government would have to have a program put in HEPA filtration into our schools and into our public buildings. It would require the private sector to look at HEPA filtration when they are erecting buildings for public use. This should be something we think of and resource as a government because the pandemic is not over. It has an unknown length of time to follow through.

Mr Speaker, I can tell from your grimaces, I can tell from the comments of the minister that this Government hates the Greens coming in here and talking about this. The minister spent five minutes lambasting us for making alarmist statements but not once has he pointed to them. I tell him to point to what the science is telling us and rebut it.