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Study suggests more than half of all Australians may have caught COVID-19 in 2022

A recent study by the National Center for Immunization Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and the Kirby Institute at University of New South Wales has found that twice as many Australians as previously reported may have been infected with COVID-19 during the country’s first Omicron wave.

Staff prepare to collect samples at a drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

The researchers tested 5,185 samples taken from blood donors for antibodies produced by infection, but not by vaccination. Based on the results, the scientists concluded that around 3.4 million adults (17 percent of the population) had been infected by the end of February. According to the survey, this was “at least twice as high as indicated by cases reported to authorities by the end of February.”

A comparison of the infection rates in different states illustrates the disastrous impact of the “let it rip” policies now adopted by all governments, Labor and Liberal-National alike, across the country.

The samples, collected just before Western Australia’s Labor government dropped its “hard border,” indicated that just 0.5 percent of blood donors in that state had contracted the virus. In Queensland, where the state Labor government threw open the border on December 23, despite surging cases in neighboring New South Wales (NSW), 26 percent of the samples tested contained COVID-19 antibodies.

Since the period in which these samples were collected, regular surveillance testing in schools and workplaces has been almost entirely eliminated, asymptomatic close contacts are no longer required to test or isolate in most states, and free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing programs have been slashed, forcing people to rely on less accurate, self-reported rapid antigen tests.

This means the drastic under reporting of infections revealed by the study is only likely to have worsened. The clear implication is that at least 14 million Australians, or well over half the population, may have contracted the virus since the beginning of the year, based on a doubling of the official figure of more than 7 million.

Further indicating that the impact of COVID-19 has been far worse than the official statistics show, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Provisional Mortality Statistics for January and February 2022 reveal 5,052 excess deaths, compared to the historical average, almost 3,000 more than have been reported as directly caused by the virus.

The doubled infection rate calculated in the NCIRS study also raises the specter of mass Long COVID. Estimates of the incidence of Long COVID vary, but even using conservative figures of 5 to 10 percent of all infections, 700,000 to 1.4 million Australians could already be facing ongoing debilitating illness.

the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that demand for neuropsychological treatment is reaching record levels and people seeking treatment for Long COVID are waiting between six and twelve months for an appointment.

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