Senior health officials say Australia has passed its COVID-19 peak, but needs to be prepared for future waves. 

The Department of Health and Aged Care’s Michael Kidd says a lot is still being learned about ‘long COVID’, particularly its impacts on high-risk groups such as older people.

“There’s research happening all around the world, including in Australia, to try and get a better understanding of this condition,” the deputy chief medical officer said.

“But what we know is that some people who are infected with COVID-19 will have symptoms which can last for weeks and, in some cases, months after they’ve recovered from the initial viral infection.”

The comments were made as official changes were announced that will see reporting on COVID cases change from daily to weekly updates, which the government said was supported by the chief health officers.

Dr Kidd says early positive signs indicate that COVID-19 vaccination may lessen the likelihood of long COVID. 

“If someone is vaccinated, it may cut their risk of long COVID by at least 50 per cent,” Dr Kidd said. 

“What we don’t know is the impact of the omicron variant and its sub-variants on long COVID. We seem to be seeing that it is producing less long COVID than the previous variants, the alpha and delta variants which we were dealing with in 2020 and 2021. 

“And that may be good news for Australia, where most of our population has been infected so far with the omicron variants.”

He says the government is particularly concerned about long COVID going unnoticed in people in aged care.

“Be on the lookout for long COVID in your residence, and don’t just put new symptoms down as being part of being old and frail,” Dr Kidd said. 

The comments were made as part of the department’s third and final Winter webinar series.