New data shows Covid cases in Singapore and New Zealand have overtaken Australia in the latest Omicron wave despite ultra-strict mask mandates.
Masks are worn everywhere in the densely-populated Asian city while New Zealanders are forced to wear them in all indoor public places, such as shopping centers and libraries.
But both now have higher case numbers per million than Australia, where compulsory mask rules have been abandoned in most indoor settings.
These figures appear to smash the push now on in Australia for a return to mask mandates, which are currently compulsory only on public transport and in aged care and healthcare centers.
Since Australian mandates began to ease last October, per capita case numbers in Singapore exceeded, matched or lagged behind Australia, before rising ahead again.
In New Zealand, case numbers were six weeks behind Australia’s Omicron wave in January, but since February they have matched or exceeded Australia.
Death rates in New Zealand also overtook Australia per capita at the start of March, despite the Kiwis being on the highest code red mask mandate restrictions – and have stayed higher ever since.
In Singapore, death rates dropped below Australia in April after racing ahead between October and Christmas, but are now surging wildly and are set to overtake Australia once more.
The Singapore findings were shared on Twitter by Australian National University infectious diseases professor Peter Collignon as debate rages on the need for masks.
The post, originally made by a Singapore resident, added: ‘Singapore has never dropped its mask mandates. Masks are required indoors at all times.
‘Australians aren’t wearing masks much at all. Let’s compare the data.’
Next to a graph of the statistics, he added: ‘It doesn’t matter.’
The data has been revealed as Victorian children over the age of eight are now asked to wear a mask in classrooms until the end of winter amid a spike in cases.
The state government has insisted the new advice is not a mask mandate, with students encouraged to wear a mask indoors and on public transport.
Parents have described the new rules as a ‘mandate by stealth’ but former Labor Leader Bill Shorten said kids should be encouraged to wear masks where possible.
‘We’ve had 300 days of home-schooling, and the schools closed,’ he told Karl Stefanovic during an appearance on the Today Show on Tuesday morning.
‘To me it’s a no-brainer, do you want your child sick at home or do you want them running around wearing a mask?’ the father of one said.
NSW and Victorian health ministers have both so far resisted the growing calls for a return to mask mandates, but critics say the looming state elections in October and November are the main reason behind any delay in bringing them back.
The new figures come as it was revealed the median age of those dying from Covid in Australia is now 83 years old, the same age as the nation’s average life expectancy.
The federal health department’s latest Covid report explodes the myths being used to drive Australian authorities to re-introduce mask mandates and continue having Covid cases isolate for seven days.
The data comes as St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney said they have just ‘one or two’ patients in ICU – with top doctors confirming the winter wave is far less severe than those to have previously hit Australia.
‘We certainly don’t have many,’ confirmed a hospital spokesman on Monday.
‘It’s not presenting so much on the very acute side, where patients need ventilation.’
The vast majority of those who have caught Covid are under 50, with 3,121,953 cases so far. Just 293 people under 50 have died of the virus since the pandemic began.
The statistics show that since Australia’s mass vaccination rollout began, those under 50 face a less than one in 10,000 chance of dying from Covid.
‘The median age of all those infected is 31 … [but] the median age of those who died is 83,’ the latest federal health department ‘Coronavirus At A Glance’ report states.
Australia’s average life expectancy is 82.9 years of age.
Most killed by Covid were men over 70 and women over 80, accounting for 7,585 deaths out of the nation’s total virus death toll of 10,582 as of 3pm on Friday.
And even if Covid breaks out among elderly frail residents in aged care centers, more than 95 percent of those infected will survive.
Of the 63,875 who caught Covid in Australian aged care centers, 60,771 recovered, with less than 1 in 20 of infected residents dying, for a tragic toll of 3,104.
NSW Premier Dom Perrottet admitted on Monday that the current flu wave was now a bigger threat than Covid.
‘At the moment, the current strand of influenza is more severe than the current strands of COVID,’ he told 2GB.
‘As we move through the next phase of the pandemic, we need to balance up the competing health issues.’
The official figures come as pressure grows for a return to compulsory masks ahead of a feared new outbreak of the virulent new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
Doomsday modeling by the Burnet Institute for the NSW government last year said the state’s health system could cope with up to 947 Covid patients in ICU.
But NSW currently has just 64 Covid cases in ICU across the state with only 13 on ventilators, according to NSW Health.
The stats have also destroyed claims that Omicron is super-infectious, with infection rates staying constant all year long.
Australia’s Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 outbreak, which started in January, coincided with the end of most mask mandates and lockdown restrictions.
Omicron BA.2’s R0 – the number of people one person can infect without restrictions – is said to be around 13.3.
But the Re – the effective rate of infection – has stayed around 1 or less since the middle of January, after a brief spike to 2.0 for a couple of days after New Year.
The government’s mass double-jab vaccination program, taken up by 95 percent of the population, has played a huge part in controlling the spread of the virus.
But the subsequent third booster shot program has been less successful, with just a 71 percent take up, as work now starts on encouraging a fourth jab.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged students and children to mask up in schools, while NSW education minister Sarah Mitchell also flagged the return of masks in class.
NSW schools have suffered a 30 percent rise in staff shortages through sickness as a result of Covid and flu this year, Ms. Mitchell said.
‘We are absolutely feeling the pressure…there’s no question of that,’ she admitted.
Victoria chief health officer Ben Cowie told the state government to bring back masks, but the advice was rejected by state health minister Mary-Anne Thomas.
‘I made a decision based on the advice that I had received that further mandating masks was not the most effective way to get the message out about the importance of mask wearing,’ she said.
South Australia would need to declare another state emergency, after allowing the last announcement to expire, before they could issue any new mask mandate.
Federal health minister Mark Butler also says it is ‘unlikely’ the government will enforce compulsory masks, but urged people to wear them in public and to work from home where possible.
But Deakin University’s Professor Catherine Bennett insists compulsory masks will ease the coming Covid wave and also play a major psychological role.
‘When you put a mask on, it’s a reminder that things aren’t quite normal. It reinforces behaviors like taking a step back from other people,’ she told Seven West media.
‘The mask could be the thing that also helps us stay mindful of those other things … and stay that bit safer.’
The stats also revealed NSW has had the most Covid cases in Australia with 2,971,525 and 3,798 deaths. Victoria has had the most deaths with 4,148 from 2,245,301 cases.
Northern Territory has had the least number of cases and deaths with 53 deaths from 83,684 infections, ahead of even ACT which has had 84 deaths from 175,923 cases.
The nation has also just passed the 75million milestone for the number of Covid test results since the pandemic began, almost three each for every single person.
Reporting from The Daily Mail.