A probe into Australia’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely begin once the country emerges from recent waves of the virus.
Department of health secretary Brendan Murphy has told a Senate estimates hearing a decision on how the inquiry would run and when it would operate would be made by the Federal Government “in the not too distant future”.
He said the inquiry would likely be finalised once the country moved on from current waves of COVID.
“The view was that (the Government) would like to see how we settled a little bit in this new … phase where COVID is not having quite the impact that it used to have,” he said.
“Many of the states and territories have looked at their own response, so we were obviously evaluating all of our programs such as the vaccine rollout, the anti-viral administration and usage.”
Chief medical officer Paul Kelly warned there would still be large numbers of COVID cases in the community going forward.
“The most recent (wave) is now settling, but there will be more waves into the future.
“I predict there will be at least another couple this year,” Professor Kelly said.
“We have to learn lessons from this extraordinary time so that we can be more prepared for the future.”
The most recent figures showed there have been 18,190 COVID-related deaths in Australia since the start of the pandemic.
Of those, 892 deaths were recorded this year up until February 8, while there were almost 15,000 fatalities in 2022.
More than one-third of the deaths this year have been among aged-care residents.
Kelly said officials were moving away from using previous models for reporting COVID deaths and instead using the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the data.
“The ABS is the way that deaths are reported on in Australia and the reason why we use that is because it’s based on the state-based births, deaths and marriages register, and they use very, very specific and clear reporting metrics,” he said.
Professor Murphy said while there was a need during the early stages of the pandemic to have up-to-date death reporting, more accurate measurements were needed now.
“It was quite important to get something that was seen by the community to be real time, but in it being real time, it compromised accuracy,” he said.
“Many of those deaths were then revised down.”