Pandemic conversation: How can we stay relatively safe?

By Indira Laisram
Celebration of festival at the Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar Temple// File photos// Supplied

With a highly infectious Omicron third wave, the pandemic conversation is now shifting to how communities and individuals can keep themselves safe.

On an average, every week the Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar Temple in The Basin receives about 300 -400 patrons and devotees, some of whom come to the canteen and others who visit both the canteen and temple. The number is, of course, huge during festivals and other special occasions.

Temple president Shan Pillai says, “During the restriction period, there were hand sanitisers, checking of vaccination cards, usage of masks, etc.. Now the government has not put anything as mandatory and even masks are optional.” But that having said, he believes most people are still wearing masks and using their own common sense to stay protected.

“Most importantly, when we talk about COVID, very quickly the conversation goes to ‘how many vaccines have you taken’. A lot of people have taken four vaccinations, that is common,” says Pillai, adding, “COVIDSafe practices are now left to individuals and there is awareness among people that this virus is very much still around.”

Some organisations are encouraging employers to start working from home as per messaging from authorities. Akaash, an IT professional, was told to work from home last week for an indefinite time. Apart from the safety aspects, it saves him travel time from his Cheltenham home to his office in Heatherton. He says he can also chip in with household chores and drop and pick up his toddler from his day-care centre.

Kavita, who takes the train from her home in Craigieburn to the city, observes the Authorised Officers checking tickets also distributing free masks to those who are not wearing them. At work, it is all quite a free atmosphere with no mask mandates etc., she says.

One way to lower COVID risks is of course to be vaccinated but ensuring COVIDSafe practices such as wearing masks, washing hands are key to keeping the virus at bay.

With the advent of the more infectious Omicron third wave driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which are far more infectious than earlier variants and have a greater ability to escape immunity from vaccines and prior infection, the focus is back on COVIDSafe practices.

Against this backdrop, the Government today launched a new communication campaign to encourage people to follow public health advice to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Tens of thousands of cases a day are currently being reported and this is having a flow-on effect on critical workforces, businesses and supply chains, Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler says.

This campaign urges Australians to protect themselves and take pressure off our healthcare system by simply wearing a mask, physical distancing and practising good hygiene.

The campaign also includes important reminders for people to get tested if they have symptoms and stay home if they have COVID-19.

The advertising will appear nationally on television, radio, out-of-home, social media and digital channels from today. Messages will be adapted and translated for multicultural and First Nations audiences.

“This new campaign encourages Australians to take simple but significant actions to help slow the spread of COVID-19—particularly during the current wave which has led to a spike in cases and put pressure on our health system.

“Everyone can help to keep our community safer—through mask wearing, physical distancing and good hygiene, and getting your third and fourth vaccine doses. These actions are easy to do and could quite literally be lifesaving,” the Minister says.

The Indian Sun acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

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