Australian hospitals are to recommence elective surgeries postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has warned the battle against the virus is “not yet won”.
The national coronavirus death toll reached 83 on Sunday, with three new deaths reported in NSW, Tasmania and Victoria, but the rate of new infections continues to drop.
There were just 16 new COVID-19 cases across the nation on Sunday, bringing the total to 6711 cases.
“What we have seen is a sustained and consolidated and now extended flattening of the curve,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Sunday, as he unveiled the government’s contact tracing app.
Called COVIDSafe, the voluntary app will play a key part in easing restrictions, along with increased testing. At least one million people have downloaded the app since its launch.
Queensland and Western Australia will begin easing some restrictions from this week, while category two and some category three elective surgeries will recommence from Monday.
It includes IVF, dental work, screening programs, all child surgeries, joint replacements, eye procedures, endoscopies and colonoscopies.
Elective surgeries were postponed last month to free up beds and save personal protective equipment amid fears the coronavirus would overwhelm the hospital system.
Australian Medical Association President Tony Bartone welcomed the gradual return to elective surgery while lending his support to the COVIDSafe app.
“(Elective surgery) is an important additional component in ensuring that we deal with the necessary burden of disease now, and do not defer and roll out a significant hump of unexpected complications in managing those conditions as we reach the end of COVID-19,” he said.
Dr Bartone also urged Australians not to neglect their health concerns, following widespread reports people were avoiding seeing their doctor amid fears of contracting coronavirus.
“Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancers do not take a holiday because of the circulating COVID-19 virus and the message to Australians is to continue their usual care and see a doctor for whatever symptoms are unusual,” he said.
“Don’t write it off. It might be your health that you are putting off.”