Covid-fearing campaigners are pushing for mask orders and forced social distancing to keep Australians out of the pandemic – even though there is no official health advice to support the measures.
Two highly infectious subtypes of the Omicron variant, known as BA.4 and BA.5, are spreading around the world and causing global staff shortages in schools, hospitals and the private sector.
In the 24 hours to Friday morning, 43,491 new cases of Covid were reported across Australia.
While those strains are more contagious than previous sub-strains, governments have resisted reintroduction restrictions because there is no evidence to suggest they are more dangerous than previous Covid mutations.
However, that hasn’t stopped lock-happy extremists from informally advising others to join their campaign of fear.
Earlier in July, well-known American author and speaker Stephanie Tait, 35, told her 31,000 Twitter followers that governments had ‘abandoned us’ in the midst of the current wave and played a role in spreading fear.
Prominent US author and speaker Stephanie Tait (pictured), 35, told her 31,000 Twitter followers that governments have ‘abandoned us’.
‘If you don’t wear a mask in public, you will most likely get a BA.5,’ Ms Tait wrote on Twitter.
His tweet was widely shared by Australians concerned with what he said.
‘If you don’t wear a mask in public, you will most likely get a BA.5. If you’re wearing a surgical mask (or heaven forbid) in public? You will probably get a BA.5,’ Ms Tait wrote.
‘Eating indoors in restaurants right now is a guarantee that you will be infected in this wave. Eating out in many restaurants is unfortunately still a good risk for BA.5, because there is not enough distance from others to fully reduce the risk.’
He went on to suggest governments were trying to hide the severity of the new strain and people should not rely on official health advice to inform their behaviour.
‘Reduce your risk by minimizing any unnecessary interactions you can. If you can switch to curbside / delivery? Do it. Even if you have access to quality respirators rated n95 or higher, if you CAN avoid them, then right now that’s highly recommended,’ he wrote.
He went on to suggest governments were trying to hide a new kind of violence (tweet pictured).
Ms Tait told her followers to ignore health advice in a series of tweets (pictured)
‘Export any collections you can outside, and even then you should use masks. If you need to eat/drink then separate each household from the others outside and start masking again as soon as you are done.
‘Even if you have managed to avoid Covid so far, PLEASE don’t think anything you do will still be safe. This is not the same Covid as before.’
Ms Tait went so far as to tell others that there was no conceivable way they could lead a normal life: ‘I’m sorry, there are no shortcuts or free prison jobs that will allow you to live normally and without a mask at the moment. . Sorry.’
The unsolicited Twitter message was not representative of the latest advice issued by the government.
Authorities who said new restrictions were unnecessary during the latest wave are the same officials who closed the nation twice in the past two years — once when the pandemic began, and again amid the rise of the Delta dialect.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured) has continued to reject calls for authorities and national restrictions on masks, despite the wave of BA.4 and BA.5.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has continued to reject calls for authorities and national restrictions on masks despite the wave of BA.4 and BA.5.
“We know the Covid epidemic is not over and people should continue to act according to health advice,” he said on Friday.
‘We want to keep the economy open and the key to that is reducing the health impact on Australians.’
Ms Tait is not alone in pushing her agenda on social media, regardless of official health advice.
Tony Windsor, a former MP for New England in NSW, continues to push for the re-introduction of face masks and restrictions on his Twitter page.
He retweeted a post by former Sydney MP and Australian Medical Association president Kerryn Phelps, who blasted Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for ‘strongly encouraging’ people to wear masks indoors instead of enforcing the law.
Mr Albanese has claimed the seven-day isolation period was necessary to fight Covid cases and reduce pressure on hospitals.
‘Explore whether “highly encouraging” is better as a public health strategy than “encouraging” and “recommending” wearing masks indoors,’ the post read.
‘Without authority, people are ignoring public health advice.’
Doctor Phelps, meanwhile, also sent back numerous calls to recall orders for masks and other restrictions.
He posted back to one woman who suggested Australians ‘can no longer keep ourselves as a community’.
“When we force our vulnerable, disabled, and elderly people to isolate themselves at home, to protect themselves, while other people do what they want,” the post read.
In a tweet directed at Mr Albanese, he wrote: ‘The only way you can protect those at risk is to make tough decisions about reducing the spread of #Covid19 including PCR testing, support for isolation and masks.’
The mum-of-four from Melbourne told her Twitter followers that she ‘almost cried at the time [Labor MP] Stephan Whitlam said we have to “treat it as a tragedy”.’
‘It made me feel that politicians are not looking at the currents of the epidemic. Another variant will be included after BA.5. Another increase. It’s not normal.’
Former judge and University of Melbourne professor Alastair Nicholson last week blasted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews for being ‘weak’ and failing to return the mask duties.
“I can’t believe the current weakness of the Andrews Government on Covid,” he wrote on social media.
Most Australians appear to support ending the mandatory seven-day Covid isolation period after Anthony Albanese refused to change his position on the law.
‘It appears to have completely lost its nerve and succumbed to business pressure by ignoring CHO and AMA advice on wearing masks. Since when has business had such an influence on public health issues.’
Mr Andrews defended some of Australia’s toughest Covid measures in the Delta wave in 2021, despite strong criticism.
He introduced night curfews and mandatory masks in outdoor settings, with armed police officers patrolling parks and children’s playgrounds.
Another user, again posted by Dr Phelps and Mr Windsor, called people who don’t want to live with restrictions ‘stupid’ who are ‘too stupid to realize they identify with each other through their hobbies and conversations’.
Mr Albanese meanwhile said the seven-day isolation period was necessary to combat rising Covid cases and reduce pressure on hospitals – although much of the strain on the health care system is due to the rise in flu cases.
Australia recorded its worst May on record with 65,770 confirmed cases of flu – more than double the number set before the lockdown in 2019.
There is no mandatory isolation period for influenza.
Those with Covid are not required to self-isolate in countries such as the UK or Switzerland, while they are only ‘recommended’ to self-quarantine for five days in the US.
Face masks are not enforced in the UK or Switzerland either – while Australians are still required to wear them when taking public transport or visiting hospitals.
Countries such as Sweden also no longer classify Covid as a ‘serious disease’.
Why cutting off the period of re-infection of Covid resulted in Albo’s return to the $750 per week payment
Covid-related staff shortages in Australian hospitals, schools and businesses are being exacerbated by new legislation to return patients to isolation if they are re-infected with Covid.
Australia’s Central Health Protection Committee, which advises state health ministers on public health protection, decided on July 12 to reduce the period of re-infection with Covid from 12 weeks to 28 days due to the increase in outbreaks of people who less dangerous, but more infectious, Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.
The Labor government signed off on the decision and it was enforced across Australia.
A well-placed source said the decision was made ‘unilaterally by bureaucrats without regard to its implications in the real world’ and ‘revealed the ignorance of the new Albanian Government’ in handling the health advisory.
“That is, it is always just advice,” said the source. ‘There was a “lie” told to Australians across Covid by authorities that “we were following health advice”. That was never true.’
The decision to pass the re-infection period means that if a person were to become re-infected with Covid after just 28 days, they would have to enter another seven-day period of isolation.
Previously, Australians did not face seven-day isolation until after 12 weeks.