Covid-19: Dr Nick Coatsworth feels ‘cautious optimism’ about pandemic future

Australia’s former deputy chief medical officer says he is worried the intense fear of Covid-19 within some states may stop the country moving forward.

Australia’s former deputy chief medical officer says he is worried the intense fear of Covid-19 within states largely untouched by the virus may hinder the country from moving forward.

Professor Nick Coatsworth, the executive director of medical services at Canberra Hospital, told a Senate committee on Tuesday he feels “cautious optimism” about the future of the pandemic.

He said Covid-19 was a “terribly scary disease in 2020” and remains so, particularly for the unvaccinated, but it must be reinforced that there are effective treatments and vaccines available.

Questioned about his endorsement of a “psychological runway” getting Australians used to opening up and living with Covid, Professor Coatsworth said he was “most worried” about the attitude of states that have kept the virus at bay with border closures and lockdowns.

“The states like Queensland and Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, that don’t have Covid, sort of look towards the states that have Covid with a significant amount of fear,” he said.

“And you can understand that, because they haven’t seen it. It’s almost as though you have to have Covid circulating in your community to get used to it, really.

“And now we don’t want to see huge amounts of that, and morbidity associated with it, but nor do we want to make our policy decisions based on the reality of 2020, not the reality of 2021.”

Professor Coatsworth said he had noted people with Covid-19 staying in hospital, and in ICU specifically, for shorter periods with the advent of effective treatments.

Federal president of the Australian Medical Association Omar Khorshid told the committee routine healthcare had already been disrupted by the pandemic and he was concerned about the pressure opening up would place on the system.

“We are worried that as we open up the cracks in the healthcare system will widen and we will face very significant impacts, particularly if we open too fast or go too far ahead of our vaccination rates which of course are the bets way to protect the hospital system,” he said.

Dr Khorshid said in many parts of Australia the health system had already been operating at 100 per cent capacity prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Elective surgeries and preventive healthcare had been shunted aside as a consequence, he said, but the delays and cancellations were untenable.

“If we don’t do it, we will pay a price for not doing it,” he said.

Originally published as Time for ‘cautious optimism’ about Covid-19 future, says Dr Nick Coatsworth


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