Australian medical research group quantifies mask usefulness against Omicron

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Xinhua News

12th August 2022 – (Sydney)  Australian medical research group, the Burnet Institute, has released a new modelling which can demonstrate the effectiveness of masks against the dominant Omicron strain of COVID-19.

Conducted with the government of the Australian state of Victoria and released on Friday, the modelling revealed that full mask uptake between July and October of this year could reduce case numbers and hospitalisations by up to 20 percent and deaths by up to 14 percent.

The study did not separate different types of masks for their effectiveness.

Burnet Institute Head of Modelling and Biostatistics, Dr Nick Scott said that the modelling — undertaken in July this year — is clear in reflecting the benefits of wearing masks, especially indoors.

“The model showed the more masks, the more impact on downstream outcomes … so the message is that masks can reduce the duration of the peak and increase the rate of decline,” said Scott.

The researchers said the modelling also revealed potential evidence that a large number of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants were going undiagnosed or unreported in Australia.

Scott said they were able to make this assumption due to a mismatch between hospitalizations and case numbers.

“But hospitalizations increased more sharply than anticipated and we think that one of the reasons is that there was a lot of infections in the community that either hadn’t been diagnosed or hadn’t been reported,” said Scott.

On Friday, the Victorian Department of Health reported 550 people were in hospital with COVID-19 in the state, a drop from a peak of 906 hospitalisations in last month.

Despite the seemingly receding winter wave, authorities in the state have urged alertness and distributed more than 3 million free N95 and KN95 masks to the public.

A report this week from the Actuaries Institute, which researches mortality in Australia, found that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in Australia in 2022, after heart disease and dementia.

The report estimated that in the first seven months of 2022 there had been 7,100 deaths directly from COVID-19 across Australia.

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