Five new variants in latest COVID-19 wave

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As COVID-19 cases again spike around Australia experts are hoping it will be a shorter, sharper wave that's in decline before Christmas.


Australia officially recorded 75,590 cases of COVID last week, although with a decline in testing rates, the true figure could be as much as six times higher.

There are five new variants circulating around the country, in what is being called a "variant soup".

Health experts are urging people to get a third and fourth jab, saying vaccines are still the best weapon against infections and severe illness.

Deakin University epidemiologist Hassan Vally is hoping case numbers from the latest wave will be in decline before Christmas.

"The optimistic take is that we're going to get this shorter, sharper wave and we've seen that trend over the last little while," Associate Professor Vally told reporters on Monday.

"The pandemic is not over … but we're certainly in a different position and transitioning out of the emergency response phase ... to where we live alongside the disease."

Australians should be taking greater steps during the uptick to avoid transmission, including avoiding crowds, socialising outdoors where possible and wearing a mask in high-risk settings.

Those with symptoms should get tested and avoid contact with other people until they return a negative result.

"The broad message is that we know what to do, so we all need to lower our threshold for tolerating risk," Assoc Prof Vally said.

Despite most Australians having increased immunity from vaccines and previously having had the virus, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Queensland, Paul Griffin noted becoming infected could still have severe implications.

"There's still enough people getting sick to be a significant burden on the health system," he said. 

Vaccinations and booster shots need to be up to date, he said.

Moderna Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton says while immune resistance is a challenge, vaccines are now being specifically targeted to the new variants and showing increased protection beyond three months after being administered.

In this new phase of the virus Australians are being asked to transition from following official mandates to taking personal responsibility to limit the spread of the virus.

Assoc Prof Vally said it was a very different phase of the pandemic and although the risk to individuals and the community was far less, vigilance was still a good idea.

"We never get to confident when we talk about the virus," he said.

"Every time we think we've got a handle on it there's always a surprise around the corner."

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