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- Australian journalist and television presenter
Lisa Wilkinson has fired up at former Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth on The Project, in a heated discussion about mask mandates in Australia and whether enough is being done to flatten the spread of the virus in the lead-up to Christmas.
Dr. Coatsworth told the panel of hosts that he believes “we’re in such a different position” than we were before, saying that if you get your booster shot, your immunity is back up “within a week to where it was before”.
“This is now a very treatable virus, we just need to, as our public health professionals are suggesting, we need to manage the numbers,” he said, suggesting people focus on hospitalisation rates rather than case numbers.
However, Lisa Wilkinson pointed to the fact that tens of thousands of people in NSW are facing Christmas in isolation as the Omicron COVID-19 variant continues to run rampant through the state.
“We’re just a couple of days away from Christmas. You’ve seen those numbers in NSW; they’re going through the roof. People’s Christmases are being destroyed, because that is the state where there is no mask mandate,” Lisa said.
Lisa then brought up the Prime Minister’s comments about wearing a mask being like putting on sunscreen before you head to the beach, claiming it’s a person’s own responsibility.
“The problem with that is, if you choose not to wear sunscreen, you’re the only one who gets sunburnt. If you choose not to be Covid-safe and not to wear a mask indoors – which is what is happening in NSW right now – then you are putting everybody in the vicinity at risk. Isn’t it a no-brainer?”
Dr. Coatswroth responded: “Let’s unpack it a little bit, Lisa.
“I think that, you know, independent of the analogy, what we want to do is help people make their own decisions – good decisions – about how to protect themselves and others.
“With regard to the numbers, though – it needn’t be about case numbers now. It has to be about hospitalisations, Lisa. Because if it’s not, we’ve basically moved nowhere since 2020.
“And I do think we need to move forward, focus on hospitalisations, and making sure our health system is robust and resilient – which, so far, it’s turned out to be.”
Lisa shot back: “Well, I think you have to tell that to all the people whose Christmases – in NSW, particularly – are being ruined. But anyway, let’s move on.”
The number of new COVID-19 infections in NSW exploded to 5,715 on Thursday - almost as many recorded across the entire country the day before.
The cases were diagnosed from more than 160,000 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday and represent an increase of 1,952 from Tuesday.
Minister for Customer Service and Digital Victor Dominello on Thursday announced the government had changed its mind on mandatory check-ins to venues across the state.
"Given the increasing Omicron numbers we'll revert back to our pre-15 Dec check-in settings," he tweeted.
Check-ins will be mandatory again at supermarkets, shops and hospitality venues.
But Premier Dominic Perrottet is still resisting bringing back mask mandates at indoor venues, despite NSW Health urging everyone to wear them in high-risk settings.
The government is however considering providing free rapid antigen tests via mail, as testing clinics are overwhelmed and wait times - both for the test and the result - blow out.
Meanwhile mask regulations are tightening in Queensland cinemas and hospitality venues as COVID-19 case numbers in the state surge into triple figures for the first time.
Queensland's reported 186 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, prompting the state government to ramp up the requirement for mask-wearing.
From 5am on Thursday, workers and patrons at theatres and cinemas will be required to wear masks, while staff in hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants will also have to mask up.
Masks are already mandated in supermarkets and shops as well as public transport and rideshares.
Victoria has not ruled out tightening indoor mask mandates, but will not turn to wholesale restriction changes for Christmas gatherings and major events to stave off an Omicron case spike.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Kelly has urged all state and territory chief health officers to mandate masks in all indoor settings, citing rising case numbers for the new COVID-19 variant.
Acting Premier James Merlino says Victoria will take Dr Kelly's advice on board before making a decision on reintroducing compulsory masks in hospitality and entertainment venues.
No new Omicron cases had been identified in Victoria in the 24 hours to Tuesday, after the state added a further 1245 new COVID-19 infections and six deaths.
South Australia is set to approve the widespread rollout of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests as daily case numbers continue at record levels.
The state recorded 198 new infections on Wednesday, putting it over the threshold for an official COVID-19 outbreak based on local modelling released in early November.
That predicted a 27 per cent chance of an outbreak, which was defined as "averaging more than 100 cases per day over any three-day period".
Case numbers on Monday and Tuesday this week were 105 and 154.
Additional reporting by AAP
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