WA has responded to surging COVID-19 cases in the lead-up to Christmas by enforcing the use of masks in public hospitals.
From Monday, staff and patients will be required to cover up in “high-risk” areas including haematology, oncology, organ transplant and renal dialysis.
“We need to do what we can to make sure we’re keeping each other safe — especially our most vulnerable,” WA Premier Roger Cook said on Friday.
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“That’s why, based on the latest health advice, from Monday, staff and patients must wear surgical masks in high-risk hospital clinical areas… and around vulnerable patients in critical care settings like intensive care units.”
Mask-wearing has also been recommended for visitors in all public hospital clinical settings.
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Some hospitals in South Australia have also reintroduced masks to combat the country’s eighth wave of infections.
Queensland has also offered hospitals and health services the option to introduce mandatory mask-wearing
“It’s a simple measure that will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help keep our most vulnerable safe,” Cook said.
“It’s easy — and it’s the right thing to do.
WA’s Chief Health Officer Dr Andy Robertson said COVID-19 cases had been surging since September.
He said the increase was primarily driven by the Omicron XBB variant EG.5.
“It’s an expected part of the ongoing evolution of COVID-19 in the community as people’s immunity wanes over time,” Robertson said.
“Given the increase in COVID hospitalisations and health staff off sick, health service providers have agreed on consistent mask recommendations across our public health system.”
From next Monday, public staff and patients must wear surgical masks in high-risk clinical areas and around vulnerable patients in critical care settings like intensive care units. Credit: JONO SEARLE/AAPIMAGE
Robertson said private hospitals and aged care facilities across the state should consider strengthening mask-wearing requirements for staff and visitors.
“COVID is very much still with us and my advice for the community remains the same — stay home if you are sick and do not visit high-risk settings such as aged care facilities and hospitals if you have cold or flu symptoms,” he said.
COVID-19 cases recently spiked by more than 23 per cent across the country but it is likely that figure is actually much higher, given reduced reporting levels.
Epidemiology professor Catherine Bennett said authorities were unsurprised by the surge in numbers and had even expected a pre-summer wave.
“Sadly it’s what happens with this virus. As an outbreak caused by particular subvariants fades into the background, a new Omicron variant gets a foothold,” Bennett said.
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