Are we going to face another COVID winter?

With winter looming, it’s worth taking stock of how prevalent COVID is right now and what can we expect over the next few months. The weather changes at this time of year increase the risk of transmission of all kinds of infectious respiratory diseases. It’s also important to note that this will be our second winter with Omicron subvariants. 

Most states are seeing a slow rise in hospital numbers, but those that started climbing earliest (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania) might already be seeing hospital numbers levelling out. So there is hope the current surge will not lead to as high rates of severe illness.

With each wave, a smaller proportion of COVID-positive patients are being reported in ICU. The deaths associated with each peak have also fallen with each main wave. Antivirals have played an important role, but so too has population immunity, now estimated at 99.6%. Omicron is said to be less likely to cause severe illness, especially in a population with significant levels of immunity from both vaccine and prior infection.


The change in the dominant Omicron subvariants and their immune escape characteristics play a blog role in re-infection. As we now have a mix of variants in the population at any one time, reinfections have become more common. 

They are also difficult to measure and will be seriously underestimated due to low reporting rates and mild or asymptomatic infections. Reinfections help fuel infection rates and therefore increase the risk of exposure to people who are at risk of severe disease if infected.

Researchers are still not sure whether having repeat infections might alter the chances of developing long COVID.


Being up-to-date with the latest COVID and flu vaccines is critical for those more vulnerable to waning immunity and serious illness, and may reduce symptoms in any adult who hasn’t yet had their first booster or an infection in recent months.

Adults 18 and over are only eligible for a booster six months after their previous dose or their last infection. For those who are vulnerable to severe infection, have a weakened immune response, or have been shielding from the community, a booster dose with the latest vaccines is still strongly recommended.

In conclusion

The Australian winter will likely see a rise in cases again. The cycle of subvariants will leave us exposed and accelerate the waning of immunity. Given the cold weather, we’ll spend more time together indoors, making us more vulnerable to community transmission.

The safest plan is still to stay home if you are unwell, look for well-ventilated areas when out, open windows to ventilate your home before and during visits, and be considerate of those who are wearing masks as they are more than likely vulnerable and anxious.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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