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A man wearing a face mask while working from home.
Photograph: Monstera

Australians urged to wear masks and work from home amid Covid-19 surge

The chief medical officer advises precautions due to the severity of the third Omicron wave

Adena Maier
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Adena Maier
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It's been eight months since Melbourne exited its last lockdown, and in that time, Australia has slowly been shedding many of its Covid-related mandates. Mask-wearing is required only in a handful of places, returning to the office has been encouraged and domestic and international travel is back on the cards.

But amid attempts to return to normalcy, a third wave of Omicron is giving cause for concern. In a joint press conference with health minister Mark Butler, chief medical officer Paul Kelly advised that employers allow their employees to work from home where feasible, and to reinstate mask-wearing in the workplace.

"There were 300,000 cases or thereabouts reported over the last seven days, and I think the CMO and I are pretty confident that the real number is likely more than double that," said Butler. To see how many active reported cases are in your postcode, you can visit this map that's updated daily by Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services. 

While the advice is not a mandate, Kelly adds that the new variant is far more infectious than previous strains. As of July 19, more than 5,000 Australians are currently hospitalised and of those, 158 are in ICU and 41 are ventilated. 

"We cannot stop this wave of infections, but we can slow the spread and protect the vulnerable," says Kelly. "We've done this before, and we can do it again." 

ICYMI: Australians aged over 30 are now eligible for a fourth Covid vaccination.

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