Why workers are being urged to stay home amid ‘variant soup’

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People are being urged by health experts to work from home where they can, with the latest Covid-19 wave expected to peak before Christmas.

Cases have surged in NSW and Victoria in recent weeks after steadily rising since October amid a “variant soup”.

Last week NSW Health changed its Covid-19 risk rating from green to amber while Covid cases in NSW and Victoria have doubled in just a fortnight.

Hassan Vally, an Associate Professor in Epidemiology at Deakin University, said on Monday that new variants XBB and BQ.1 were driving case numbers as they became more dominant.

He said the new variants appeared to be more infectious but less severe.

“We also know these variants don’t seem to be increasing in virulence … The evidence seems to point to they’re inherently less virulent,” he said during an Australian Science Media Centre briefing.

Covid numbers have surged in Sydney amid a ‘variant soup’. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan CokerCovid numbers have surged in Sydney amid a ‘variant soup’. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker

Dr Vally said people needed to think about “preventative behaviours”, adding the current wave was expected to be marked by a sharp increase, followed by a sharp decrease.

He said he was expecting cases to begin declining before Christmas.

“Each wave seems to be having less impact,” Dr Vally said.

Dr Vally said the threat posed by Covid wasn’t over, but emphasised we had entered a stage of living alongside the virus.

Dr Hassan Vally says workers should stay home where possible.Dr Hassan Vally says workers should stay home where possible.

Health authorities last week recommended NSW residents wear masks indoors and on public transport if social distancing wasn’t available.

NSW residents will also now have to wear masks in all areas of hospitals.

There were 27,869 people across NSW diagnosed with Covid-19 in the week ending November 17.

Health authorities in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and the ACT have strongly recommended a return to wearing masks in public indoor areas and on public transport, but have shied away from reintroducing mandates.

Dr Vally said people who were in a position to work from home should do so when they can.

“Maybe this is a point also where people, where they have the flexibility, should work from home a little bit more than what may become normal,” he said.

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