It began when NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard infamously said that given how out of control the cases had become, everyone was likely going to get the illness at some point.
While there’s a definite possibility this could be the case, and being double and triple vaccinated is our best line of defence for if or when that happens, this off-handish comment became the damaging basis for the approach that many people are now taking as the Omicron strain of Covid-19 rages in Australia.
“If we’re going to get it, I may as well make sure I get it at a time it fits in my social calendar,” people say. Some are joking, but others aren’t.
Last week, social media influencer Tully Smyth came under fire after sharing on her Instagram Stories that she was moving in with her Covid-positive boyfriend to "hopefully" catch the virus "sooner rather than later".
The former Big Brother star quickly clarified that she did this because she believed she had been exposed to the virus before her boyfriend tested positive and went into quarantine—which is a totally valid reason for what she did. But that initial comment, and specifically her phrase “hopefully catch it”, only fuels the troubling messaging previously set out by Hazzard.
Even worse are some of the anecdotes I’ve seen on social media from others who seem to be taking a much more liberal approach to being infected. One person asked a Facebook group of more than 100,000 members if someone with Covid could “cough or sneeze” on their face on a specific date, in order for them to isolate during a suitable time-frame.
I’ve also learned of people who knowingly have symptoms, yet because they haven’t technically tested positive yet, they're still going out in public and coming into contact with countless people. Just this week, a picture of woman on a plane texting someone went viral. “We have Covid … shhhhh," she wrote. "That’s why we’re returning home a day early. On the plane..."
Perhaps these people who are knowingly exposing themselves to the virus believe their immune systems are strong and will cope but the truth is, they actually can’t guarantee that—and nor can they for those around them. No matter when or how you get the virus, there’s nothing to say you won’t get very, very sick from it.
This much is proven by facts. Last week, a 23-year-old man who was fully vaccinated with no underlying conditions died after being infected with Covid-19 in NSW. This was an extreme and devastating case, but it highlighted that no one can safely assume they’ll be exempt from the virus’ effects.
There’s also the fact that actually having Covid-19 doesn’t stop reinfection from occurring, per the CDC. So yes, even if you’re hoping to get Covid at a convenient time, there’s a chance you can also become reinfected at another inconvenient time.
The hospitalisation rate of those who’ve contracted the virus in the past two weeks has doubled to 2,030. Four weeks ago, that number sat at 171.
Add this number to more than 13,000 people who are currently being “cared for” outside of hospital (per NSW Heath stats), and you begin to see that this virus isn’t necessarily a common cold for every person who believes they’re otherwise healthy and able to tackle it.
Yes, Omicron might be a milder strain in comparison to Delta, and yes, the majority of us are double vaccinated, with triple vaccination rates rising, but even this doesn’t guard us from the very real threat that Covid poses—some of us won’t be lucky enough to experience symptoms equivalent to that of a common cold. Even worse, some will experience Long Covid—debilitating symptoms of the virus which continue long after they're infected.
The other, very important factor to consider here is what this means for the healthcare system. I’m no health expert, but it’s fairly obvious that if a health worker actually had the time right now (which they don’t, because they’re completely overrun), they would also concur that the “let it rip” approach to Covid-19 in Australia is a massive concern.
We hear stories on a daily basis of hospital staff who are overworked and desperate for a reprieve, but with no end in sight. Plus, more than 5,000 healthcare workers currently have Covid themselves, causing even more strain on an already overrun system.
So, if you’re not trying to avoid Covid for your own health or for your loved ones who might be exposed, please do it for the healthcare workers. If you do get really sick, they may not have the capacity to give you the full medical attention you need. Let that sink in.
Yes, we may "all get it" eventually, but I’m going to continue taking as many precautions as I can to avoid it for now, especially while the healthcare system is at its absolute limit.
This decision to “try” to get Covid at a time that suits you puts everybody else at risk. Please, think of our community first—the vulnerable, the exhausted healthcare workers, or even your own immediate household contacts—and rethink that mentality.