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Silver lining for flu season amid coronavirus outbreak

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly says the rate of daily new COVID-19 cases has decreased, but warned about public mask use and upcoming flu season.

Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly has confirmed that the rate of daily new COVID-19 cases has decreased, but he warned that the nation is not in the clear yet after five deaths from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

Professor Kelly said that there are 5,544 cases in Australia, and the death toll has risen to 30.

"That flattening of the curve appears to be happening, but I really would caution thinking that we've got through this completely because we definitely have not," he said.

"The good news is the daily [case] increases are definitely less than they were a week or so ago.

"That really talks to the effectiveness of some of the ways we have tried to deal with the virus over the last few weeks.

"Even though that is an improvement in terms of the number of cases every day, that's still about 250 people that are contracting the virus and still five people have died in the last 24 hours.

"These are real people and real examples."


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Professor Kelly said any containment measures are taking two to three weeks till they take their "full effect", as indicated in the positive signs weeks after the border shutdown and strict social distancing rules.

With winter around the corner in Australia and other parts of the southern hemisphere there are still concerns from the nation's health authorities that the COVID-19 pandemic may still get worse here, especially approaching flu season.

But Professor Kelly said their early surveillance of the flu in Australia has shown that the social distancing measures have led to less cases of influenza.

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"Our flu tracker survey - a series of questions where people sign up to a 15-second survey asking if you've been sick with flu-like illness - that is demonstrating that it is decreasing since those social distancing measures have come in and it's in fact the lowest it has been in some years," he said.

"That's one side that we are showing we're having less problems there because of social distancing.

"But on the other side, we know that low humidity and low temperatures do tend to promote the infectiousness of respiratory viruses and we suspect this virus will be similar."

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer also urged Australians not to wear masks, despite the U.S. government recently advising their citizens to do so in an effort to reduce the transmission of coronavirus which is spreading rapidly in North America.

Professor Kelly said that issues of low supply as well as misuse of masks by the general public is why the Australian government's advice has not followed the U.S.

"In terms of mask use in the community I would stress that we do not think it is a good idea, partly because of the strained supply, but also the effectiveness in relation to people walking around with masks," he said.

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"Using a mask incorrectly can actually make it more dangerous. If you're not used to wearing a mask it can become quite uncomfortable, even claustrophobic and it can become quite itchy under the mask.

"So, touching a surface with the virus, scratching yourself underneath the mask could in fact increase your risk not decrease your risk.

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"From our national stockpile perspective, we've made some gains there in terms of supply coming from overseas and also building up the capability in Australia to make our own masks.

"At this time our advice remains, if you are sick, stay at home.

"For the moment mask use is not recommended for the Australian public."

Source: 9News

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