Australia is on the precipice of the grim milestone of 10,000 COVID-19 related deaths, with more than 7000 fatalities reported in the last six months.
Australia has reported 7677 deaths over the course of 2022, taking the country’s total to 9930.
There were also 909 COVID-19 related fatalities in 2020 and 1344 in 2021.
“We are going to actually end up with about 14,000 deaths this year from COVID if we keep going at this rate,” Program Director of Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Griffith University Nigel McMillan told AAP.
“That will make COVID the number two or number three killer in the country of all causes of deaths.
“Is this what success looks like for Australia in terms of its control of this virus? I would suggest no.”
He said booster uptake is not good enough in states such as Queensland – the lowest in the country at about 63 per cent.
The state with the highest booster uptake is Western Australia, at 83 per cent, with other states and territories falling somewhere in between.
“We just seem to have become comfortable with the idea that we’re stopping vaccine mandates for all sorts of places, we have loosened our mask restrictions,” he said.
“So we have very little in the way of the virus at the moment in terms of (stopping) the virus spreading.”
Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard does not want a return to mask mandates, but admits the possibility is being talked about.
“It is something that is still being discussed but … we would prefer not to go down that road,” Dr Gerrard told Brisbane 4BC radio on Friday.
Mr McMillan suggested policy tweaks be made to the public health system, including widening the availability of antivirals beyond people with comorbidities.
Australia is experiencing a succession of Omicron variants that have kept infection rates high, says Deakin University chair in Epidemiology Catherine Bennett.
However Australia ranked low in deaths per capita when compared to other countries, she said.
“Whether we look at the total COVID-19 deaths per case, or deaths per capita, Australia sits low on the league tables, together with New Zealand, Taiwan and Japan,” Prof Bennett said.
Australia’s daily death rates per capita were comparable to the UK and Canada, and lower than France – countries currently in summer and reporting declines in case numbers, she said.
“It is critical that we learn more about those who are ending up in hospital or not surviving their infections, so that we can identify what needs to be done to avoid preventable deaths and bring the case fatality rate down.”