AMA warns Australia against UK-style Covid reopening

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been told to avoid a UK-style reopening. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been told to avoid a UK-style reopening. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

The government has been told Australia's hospital system would be overwhelmed were it to adopt a UK-style reopening model.

ACT Australian Medical Association president Walter Abhayaratna has also warned "long Covid", a condition lingering well after the virus, could spark a chronic illness "epidemic" in years to come.

The UK abruptly lifted almost all of its restrictions on Monday, despite daily case numbers soaring above 50,000 last week, and Dr Abhayaratna said he would be "grossly concerned" by a similar approach in Australia.

While the federal government has planned for a staggered reopening in line with vaccination rates, the AMA has urged it to prepare for imminent demand by increasing hospital beds.

And with the Canberra Hospital's emergency department already hampered by bed shortages, Dr Abhayaratna warned of added strain even with high vaccination rates.

"You're reducing - but you're not eliminating - the moderate and severe disease that ends up in hospital visits," he said.

READ MORE:

"It doesn't take much to put strain on our system in the short term ... It would make a massive impact on the ACT if we don't do this right."

The federal government currently covers 45 per cent of the cost of each hospital bed, a figure the AMA wants to increase to at least 50 per cent.

And with the impact of long Covid still "a huge grey zone", Dr Abhayaratna warned support could be needed for years to come.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has effectively ended all Covid restrictions in the country, despite soaring COVID-19 case numbers. Picture: Shutterstock

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has effectively ended all Covid restrictions in the country, despite soaring COVID-19 case numbers. Picture: Shutterstock

"People who have even fewer symptoms may have organs that are affected. That ultimately down the track leads to an epidemic at an earlier age, with conditions such as: mental health, cognitive impairment, renal disease and cardiac disease," he said.

"We have no idea; we're learning as we go in terms of the long-term fixes."

But Dr Abhayaratna conceded there could be no "meaningful discussions" with the ACT government until the plan was raised at national cabinet.

Just under 170,000 vaccines were administered on Monday, as Australia struggled to bring the highly contagious Delta variant under control.

ACT AMA president Walter Abhayaratna has warned a similar move here would overwhelm Australia's hospitals. Picture: Jade Harrison-Will

ACT AMA president Walter Abhayaratna has warned a similar move here would overwhelm Australia's hospitals. Picture: Jade Harrison-Will

More than 35 per cent of Australians have received their first dose, while 14.1 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Tuesday that attention would shift to reducing hospitalisations and deaths as the vaccination rate rose.

"We won't just strip away all of the protections at once ... it is a progressive step-down in measures as we have the increase in vaccination rates," he said.

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

This story Australia warned against UK-style Covid reopening first appeared on The Canberra Times.