Australians believe COVID-19 risk is ‘new normal’, yet with winter here, COVID-safe behaviours are in decline
- New research shows Australians increasingly report being less likely to take protective measures or act if they suspect they have COVID-19.
- Over 60s show significant concern about COVID-19, despite 3 in 5 being unaware of their potential eligibility for anti-virals.
- Australians urged to renew their COVID-safe behaviours to help protect their communities.
Results from new research released today show that Australians increasingly view the risk of COVID-19 as the ‘new normal’, with nearly three-quarters (74%) believing that COVID-19 will be viewed similarly to the seasonal flu a year from now. The results also reveal a declining trend in COVID-safe behaviours across the community, even as Australia continues to report more than 38,000 cases a week and approaches a potential fifth COVID wave.
The COVID Community Sentiment Index, a quantitative research survey regularly commissioned by Pfizer Australia, canvassed Australians’ views on COVID-19 in May 2023.
The most recent research found that COVID-19 continues to be a significant concern for older Australians. More than three-quarters (77%) of those over the age of 60 believe COVID-19 will continue to impact their lives in a year’s time and nearly half (47%) believe new variants will emerge and impact their lives. Yet in this age group, 3 in 5 (61%) were unaware of their eligibility status for anti-viral medicines should they test positive for COVID-19.
“As we age, we tend to have more risk factors for developing severe disease, so it’s important to have an early discussion with your GP or nurse practitioner about whether oral anti-viral medicines suit your health needs, and to develop a plan if you test positive to COVID-19.” said Pfizer Australia Medical Director, Dr Krishan Thiru.
The results also show that compared to a year ago, more than one in three (36%) Australians are less likely to test for COVID-19 when they experience symptoms and more than two in five (43%) are less likely to consult their General Practitioner (GP) if they test positive for COVID-19 – with both May 2023 figures increasing compared to figures in November 2022. Additionally, one in four of those at higher risk of severe illness are less likely to test (23%) or see a GP (25%) if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.
Recent Federal Government data for the week ending 30 May 2023 reported 38,618 cases of COVID-19 across Australia, an average of 5,517 cases per day, with experts suggesting Australia is approaching a fifth wave of COVID-19.
Professor Robert Booy, Infectious Diseases Specialist, University of Sydney, urged vigilance with winter here. “Winter brings with it colder months, and more time spent indoors, all of which increase the likelihood of the spread of respiratory infections like influenza and COVID-19. This year there is a real risk of a triple wave of influenza, COVID-19 and other viruses impacting our communities and those at higher risk of severe illness.
“This research shows 4 in 5 of us know someone who is at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. We can all help protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities by staying up to date with booster vaccinations, practicing COVID-safe behaviours, such as wearing masks, hand sanitisation and social distancing, testing if you feel unwell and checking your eligibility for oral anti-viral medicines as we head into the colder season” Professor Booy said.
There are a range of factors that increase an individual’s risk of serious illness, hospitalisation, and death from COVID-19. These include age, health conditions, whether someone is taking treatments for another condition or whether someone is from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background. Australians can confirm if they are at higher risk of developing severe disease from COVID-19 and their eligibility for oral anti-viral medicines by checking at www.health.gov.au or covidantiviral.com.au.