Australian Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg urged state leaders on Thursday not to “panic and overreact” to potential outbreaks of the new Omicron Covid variant, saying people should learn to “live with the virus.”
Speaking to Australia’s Seven News ahead of his mid-year budget review, Frydenberg backed the easing of restrictions in some parts of the country despite rising Covid infection rates and global concern about the threat of the Omicron variant.
Addressing the situation in the country, the federal treasurer stated that no one “wants to go back to lockdowns,” which earlier this year saw parts of the country set the world record for the most time spent under the severe Covid restriction.
Directing his remarks to officials, Frydenberg called on state leaders to “not panic” or “overreact,” and instead to “show compassion and common sense” when weighing potential Covid safety measures around outbreaks.
Both New South Wales and Victoria eased restrictions on Wednesday, reducing measures on around 26 million people, including those who are still unvaccinated. This move comes despite New South Wales recording 1,742 new infections on Thursday and Victoria reporting 1,622 new cases.
Frydenberg’s position backs up the country’s prime minister, who earlier this week urged people to focus on hospitalization rates, which are low, rather than case numbers, which are rising, as an indicator of the severity of the pandemic.
However, this approach has faced some criticism from scientists, with one epidemiologist, Nancy Baxter, telling Australia’s ABC broadcaster that “nowhere else in the world” has taken the approach of relaxing restrictions in the face of a new variant “that seems to spread much faster.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Australia has managed to largely contain outbreaks through strict Covid restrictions, recording a total of 232,765 cases and 2,113 deaths from the virus.