opinion

Is it time to scrap all the COVID rules? An expert weighs in.

Despite warnings from some scientists, many countries across the world are currently scrapping their COVID regulations.

Examples include Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the UK, which are all winding back or removing their restrictions completely, despite the virus case numbers still rising each week.

And now it seems Australia might start joining them, with some states looking to remove a number of restrictions soon. 

But are we ready to really live with COVID?

Watch: Dr Lucy Morgan on what it's like to have COVID-19. Post continues below.


Video via 9News.

In Sweden, they have done away with social distancing requirements, the use of vaccine passports and the limits of people gathering in one place. They have also ended free COVID testing, the country planning from April to reclassify COVID as a disease that is no longer a danger to society or a threat to public health. 

In England, Boris Johnson has announced an end to all COVID restrictions, including the requirement to self-isolate when you test positive. 

"While the pandemic is not over, we have reached the peak of the Omicron wave with cases falling and hospitalisations in England still falling," Johnson said. 

Whether or not Australia is in the same position as these two countries remains up for debate.

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NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced last week that restrictions in NSW are going to be wound back. In Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews is also doing the same and restrictions are set to ease in South Australia too.

Tasmania, Queensland, NT and the ACT are also backing off from COVID rules.

As the WA the borders are still closed, they are the only state looking to increase their measures, given they are now facing their first official wave of COVID since the start of the pandemic. 

Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake is an Infectious Diseases Physician and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Australian National University's Medical School. He spoke with Mamamia about this topic, answering whether we have reached a point that rolling back restrictions is the right idea.

"So we've seen again and again, restrictions pulled back during various times in this pandemic, only for countries to be caught short and experience another outbreak of infection," Doctor Senanayake noted.

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"What we are seeing though with Omicron is something different. At the start of Australia's outbreak, we saw the Chief Medical Officer and the Deputy Medical Officer showing two graphs: one was about what we wanted to happen (a low peak) and the other graph was what we didn't want to happen."

He continued: "In many ways, we've had that 'worst case scenario' happen with Omicron, and we were lucky that Omicron was less virulent. Now coming off that peak, countries are having to decide how to proceed from here."

Listen to The Quicky. Post continues after audio.


A lot of these decisions are coming down to high vaccination rates. Just like the European countries noted previously, Australia too has some great vaccination rates. It is this fact that Doctor Senanayake has taken into high consideration.

"We've got a population with high levels of vaccination, I think it is reasonable to ease restrictions now and see if we can live with Omicron and hope that a new variant doesn't emerge."

As for the categorisation of COVID, some countries like Sweden have decided to relabel the virus as no longer a socially critical disease, seeing it like the common cold or flu virus. Doctor Senanayake thinks Australia is heading in that direction, but that currently, it's too early to call.

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"Those areas where there are low levels of vaccination are the concern, as that can lead to breakouts occurring and new variants emerging. So this year I think we have to really consolidate and make sure the rest of the world gets vaccinated, therefore reducing the risk of the virus mutating into some other variant," he said. 

Although we all talk about new variants evolving into something being more infectious but less deadly, in truth this isn't always the case. That's why caution is always advised. Especially as we move into winter. 

"We have to realise that this is a respiratory virus, and it does seem to act more aggressively and cause more cases in the winter months. When COVID eventually becomes endemic, we'll expect to see spikes in winter like we do with influenza."

Flexibility is also key. And as Doctor Senanayake notes, we need to be open to the possibility of some restrictions or COVID-safe measures returning in the case that hospitals become overrun. Not lockdowns, but rather mask mandates, increased surveillance and more testing encouraged.

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To get an idea of how women are feeling, we asked Mamamia readers to share their perspective with us:

"I'm so excited for my city to feel alive again. I feel like I am living in a post-COVID life, so my anxiety towards it feels very little to none."

"I feel when restrictions are eased, I'm going to continue using a mask indoor places like the supermarket, because I think that just makes good sense."

"While I've definitely relaxed, I am still feeling cautious because I have young kids and the risk of myself getting sick and still having to take care of them concerns me. The fear is still very real."

"I am someone who has a chronic health condition and this whole experience has left me a lot more isolated than I used to be. Sometimes I feel like I'm being left behind."

"I feel totally fine and normal about the restrictions easing. It feels like things are pretty much back to normal, with people out and about, dining at restaurants, bars are packed. So I don't feel very nervous. I'm just craving that spontaneity that I used to have."

Image: Getty. Feature Image: Getty/Unsplash.