A Third COVID Wave Is Coming and Yes, You Still Need to Wear a Mask

For the past few years, we’ve all been adrift in the COVID-19 high-seas. But unfortunately, even when you’re trying to get through it by doggie paddling, you can still get smashed by a wave. This is exactly what’s happening to Australia, as we’re about to be hit with a third torrent of the spicy cough. According to the epidemiologist Adrian Esterman, writing for The Conversation, two of omicron’s subvariants, named BA.4 and BA.5, are now the dominant COVID strains in our country. To make matters worse, BA.4 and BA.5 are bad news.

But what makes these subvariants so worrisome? Well, they’re both more infectious and better at evading vaccine immunity than the previous major strains of this virus. Moreover, they have a better chance of reinfecting someone that’s already had COVID. 

Because these strains are so nasty, all of Australia’s in for a bad time, especially its citizens that live with disability. It’s worth noting that these folks aren’t prioritised nearly enough when discussing the COVID pandemic. As El Gibbs, an award-winning writer and disability advocate stated in Meanjin, “I have spent much of the past two years being very angry, in a rage at how invisible we are, how invisible I am, how easily we are ignored, forgotten, excluded.”

Gibbs also wrote, “Each time cases rise, I go through the routine again, locking down weeks before everyone else, checking I have supplies, bracing myself for another long, lonely time. Again, I’ve tried to do everything I can to stay alive, but this time I can only control the small part that is mine. Now I have to rely on everyone else also not wanting me to die.”

Related: COVID Vaccines For Kids Under Five Are Coming Soon

Related: Are Fourth Doses the Answer to the Coming COVID Tsunami?

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported that around 4.4 million people in Australia have a disability. Gibbs’ story isn’t an isolated occurrence. But even if it was, we should still do whatever we can to protect her and make sure she isn’t invisible. Because every single life is precious and worthy of equality.

So, what can everyone do to support people with disability during the third COVID wave and beyond it? You can start by wearing a mask. “One of the most important things we can do to limit transmission in the weeks ahead is to ensure we wear a mask in all public indoor settings where we can’t physically distance from others,” posted the Chief Health Officer of NSW Kerry Chant on Linkedin. “This has always been a recommendation, and I strongly urge everyone to follow this advice.”

Now, you might be wondering what the face mask rules are currently in your state or territory. Which is fair enough. Basically, in every state or territory, you have to wear a face mask while flying. NSW, Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, and the ACT all have very similar rules. In these areas, you must wear a face mask in healthcare settings, on public transport, in a taxi or ride-share service, or while waiting for public transport. 

However, some of these states and the ACT have put their own little twists on these rules, so don’t get caught with your pants down. Moreover, some locations have a couple of highly specific rules that aren’t listed above.

Currently, Tasmania has the most reckless rules of them all, with their big rule being that you have to wear a mask on a flight. In the Northern Territory, you have to wear a mask in healthcare settings, correctional facilities, and certain shelters, but you don’t have to wear one on public transport. As of writing, South Australia’s mask rules weren’t available on its website. 

Nevertheless, as previously stated, please wear a mask, wear a mask, wear a mask. Help prevent COVID from spreading, and help stop people like Gibbs from dying. Seriously, it’s a little thing you can do that has a serious, tangible impact. 

You can also do your part by limiting your interpersonal interactions, checking up on your mates with disability, and telling your local parliamentarians that more needs to be done for people with disability during the COVID pandemic. For that last point, chatting with your local Member or Senator might be daunting, but not only is this issue really important, chatting with them is an effective way of demonstrating that individuals care about it. You can find who your local representatives are on the Parliament of Australia’s website.

Learn some extra info about the COVID situation by following these links:

Health Experts Recommend You Keep Your Mask on Even as Restrictions Lift

Unvaccinated Teachers In Victoria Are Heading Back to Work

Is It the End of Airport Mask Mandates?

Getting COVID Twice: What Are The Chances, What Happens, And How To Deal With It

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.