March 23, 2023

The OzSage report: 10 key points from its critique of Australia’s Covid response

The multidisciplinary group of experts has put out a report detailing scathing criticism of the...

The multidisciplinary group of experts has put out a report detailing scathing criticism of the NSW strategy in particular

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OzSage, an independent Australian advisory group of experts in epidemiology, health and economics, has reacted to surging Covid-19 cases in New South Wales and other states with a damning critique of both the federal and NSW state government strategies to protect the population from the disease.

Below are the main points of their criticism, edited for space. The full report can be found here.

OzSage remains deeply concerned about Covid-19 in NSW, which is already affecting all of Australia. The decision to remove restrictions just as Omicron surged has cost us dearly. We now have over 12,000 cases a day in NSW, a testing system that cannot keep up with demand and a health system so burdened that citizens are being told they may not be able to access healthcare.

Staff stand downs will continue to escalate and affect more and more people. That includes supply chains, logistics and every part of civil society. All models to date assumed good testing capacity and adequate contact tracing. Without these, case numbers will blow out further. At this point in time there is no publicly available modelling to support a national plan that is based on public health principles which will protect our hospital systems from collapse.

Testing in NSW is failing, with many people turned away after waiting in queues for hours and many testing centres shut. Regional and remote areas have even less capacity.

There are unacceptable delays in testing results being sent. Worse, there have been >1,000 infected people who were sent a negative test result by mistake, and this problem has not been addressed in a transparent fashion.

There is a severe shortage of RATs nationwide. This means even people who can afford them and could relieve the pressure on the laboratories, simply cannot buy a RAT kit.

RATs are useful for screening of asymptomatic cases, but cannot serve as the backbone of the public health test and control system. The results are not reported to the government, so people who test themselves and self-manage their Covid-19 will not be counted in official case numbers.

The proposed change to the definition of a close contact is to reduce testing and resources and is not based on sound public health principles.

Close contact definitions need to be based on risk. Risk is related to the amount of exposure to virus-laden aerosols. Risk is not limited to arbitrary four-hour time frames within households.

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