The ACT chief health officer has rejected the reintroduction of a mask mandate, despite high rates of COVID, flu and respiratory illness among Canberrans.
Dr Kerryn Coleman said while mask-wearing would not be mandated, she encouraged Canberrans to wear face masks to help reduce the spread of illness over winter.
"At this stage, we're not thinking about mandating it, because ... I'm not a big fan of mandates unless we really have to [but] if more and more people can wear their mask indoors, I think will make a big difference this flu season," Dr Coleman said.
"We have seen an early start to the flu here, and there does seem to be large numbers of people [being infected]."
Dr Coleman told ABC radio the flu and COVID spread in very similar ways.
"One of the reasons why we didn't have much of a flu season in the last couple of years, because everyone was doing [things like wearing masks] so fantastically," she said.
"I would really strongly encourage people to pick up that mask and put it back on if you haven't been wearing it."
MORE COVID-19 NEWS:
Meanwhile, the ACT recorded 849 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours until Thursday 8pm.
Hospitalisation numbers remain relatively high, with 83 people in hospital with the virus (down two on the day before).
There are three COVID-19 patients in the ICU and one on ventilation. The day before, there was only one person in ICU and they were not being ventilated.
Year 10 students at Kingsford Smith School will be turning to remote learning until June 3 because of COVID-induced staff shortages.
It will join five other ACT public schools and one Catholic school that are currently using remote learning.
According to an influenza report published by ACT Health, there were 323 laboratory confirmed cases of the flu in the fortnight to May 22.
The report said this is generally a very small proportion of the cases actually in the community.
"A substantial proportion of notifications received in the four weeks to 22 May 2022 are associated with transmission in low-risk workplaces and congregate living settings and reflect expanded testing protocols adopted by certain primary health service providers," ACT Health said.
An ACT Health spokesperson said officially there had been three influenza patients admitted to hospital, however hospitals had up to 60 days to report a diagnosis.
"Confirmed influenza cases only make up a small part of the impact that people with flu-like symptoms and respiratory illnesses have on the public hospital system," the spokesperson said.
"So far in 2022 there have been 614 patients recorded as admitted under diagnosis codes that match these symptoms."
IN OTHER NEWS:
The median age of Canberrans infected with the flu is 20-years-old. Young people aged ten to 19-years-old make up 35 per cent of confirmed cases.
Australian Medical Association ACT branch president Dr Walter Abhayaratna said the system would be slammed over the coming months.
COVID-19 vaccinations rates for remain steady, with 97.2 per cent of people aged over five having received two jabs.
ACT COVID-19 vaccinations
Of the 849 new cases on Friday, 397 were recorded on a PCR and 452 via rapid antigen test.
In total, the territory has 4915 active cases and since the beginning of the pandemic has recorded 129,263 cases. Sixty-one people with COVID-19 have died in the ACT.
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