A national plan to respond to the effects of protracted COVID will soon be part of the federal government’s pandemic response.
While his focus is on helping Australia through the current winter wave, Health Minister Mark Butler said he sought expert advice on how to tackle the long-term effects of the virus.
The extent of long-term COVID is not yet known, but estimates showed that about 4 percent of patients experience long-term symptoms, Mr Butler said.
“The medical literature already reports that more than 200 different symptoms are recorded, mostly fatigue, shortness of breath and what people call brain fog,” he told parliament on Monday.
“More and more Australians are suffering long-term multi-system disorders that are difficult to diagnose and treat.”
While states and territories have long had COVID clinics to support patients, Mr Butler acknowledged that waiting lists are already building up.
“It is becoming increasingly clear to me that we need to develop a nationally targeted response to the phenomenon of prolonged COVID,” he said.
“I have already started work on the next phase of the government’s pandemic response… [and] spoke to the chief medical officer to submit proposals, especially regarding long-term COVID.”
Meanwhile, the number of people receiving a fourth vaccine dose has tripled from about 180,000 a week to more than 500,000 a week.
More than four million people have received a fourth dose, an increase of nearly 1.5 million since eligibility was extended to people over 30, Treasury Secretary Katy Gallagher told parliament on Monday.
The government will also provide weekly updates on the vaccination coverage of retirement homes.
“In early June, less than 50 percent of residents had a fourth dose of COVID-19 and vaccination rates have now risen to 78.8 percent,” she said.
“The government’s winter plan to increase vaccination rates is already working.”
There have been more than 77,000 COVID-19 cases in retirement homes and 3,394 deaths since the start of the pandemic, compared to a national death toll of nearly 12,000.
Australia registered more than 28,000 cases and 18 deaths on Monday.
Nearly 4,900 people have been hospitalized with the virus across the country.
Australia’s latest 24-hour COVID data
NSW: 10,702 new cases, 47 deaths, 2289 in hospital with 76 in ICU
Victoria: 10,079 new cases, 13 deaths, 802 in hospital with 44 in ICU
Tasmania: 944 cases, one death, 129 in hospital and nine in ICU
Western Australia: 3821 cases, five deaths, 404 in hospital with 14 in ICU
South Australia: 2848 cases, three deaths, 352 in hospital and nine in ICU