PROFESSOR BEN COWIE'S MESSAGE TO HSRs

During this year’s HSR Conference, Deputy Chief Health Officer, Professor Ben Cowie spoke on the impact COVID has had on our workplaces and community and the lessons learnt from our response.

The key messages were:

  • There is likely to be a new wave of COVID-19 over the summer as the virus mutates to break through defences and immunity from vaccines wanes over time. New variants can be detected in wastewater systems up to 6-8 weeks before they appear as a new wave in the population.
  • Control measures such as vaccines, masks, isolation periods and proper ventilation work in slowing the spread of COVID. With every successive wave we have seen, vaccines have lowered the chances of people getting infected (even accounting for mutation). In fact, there is a 40% reduction in the likelihood on contracting COVID after exposure for 3-4 months after your last dose.

Alongside this, vaccines also stop you from getting seriously unwell after COVID-19 infection.

Masks are also effective at stopping the spread, with standard cloth masks reducing your chance of infection by 50%, medical masks by 66% and N95s by 83%.

Ventilation is another key control, not just against COVID-19 but other respiratory viruses too. Air purifiers and HEPA filters reduce virus concentration and help with hayfever symptoms.

Despite isolation and mask rules being relaxed, it’s still important to remember that these are effective controls against the COVID-19 virus

  • Professor Cowie also stressed the importance of proper communication with HSRs when implementing new policies, and not just those related to COVID.

Communication needs to be a two-way with management properly consulting and listening to the views of workers when implementing new policy.

The last couple of years of isolation and lockdown have taken their toll on mental health. It is important for people to look out for each other and stand together against psychological health hazards in the workplace.

  • With new waves of COVID-19 occurring, we may ask ourselves if the past two years of lockdown were worth it. It is important to remember that with lockdown, we were able to buy time to become highly vaccinated, to prepare our health system and anti-viral treatments to protect the most vulnerable members of our community.

Compared to other countries that didn’t lockdown, our death rate is far lower, though we still need to be vigilant and remember to take proper precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

If you would like to view the rest of HSR Conference, you can do so here

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