Independent MP Monique Ryan, a former pediatric neurologist, has rebuked Coalition MPs for not wearing masks in the House of Representatives.
Ryan, who ousted Josh Frydenberg from his inner Melbourne seat of Kooyong at May’s election, was slammed by the Coalition benches after she asked Health Minister Mark Butler how the government planned to deal with the looming burden of lingering Covid.
As MPs interjected, she paused her question and pointed to the opposition benches to say “put on your masks”.
She later said she did not appreciate being interrupted “while talking about the serious risk of repeated Covid infections”.
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“I especially don’t appreciate being interrupted by shouting LNP MPs who refuse to wear masks. We all have a duty to look after each other, she said on Twitter.
Since parliament resumed last week, there has been a clear divide in the House of Representatives, with all Labor MPs wearing masks compared to just a handful of Coalition MPs.
Nationals Michael McCormack, Mark Coulton, Andrew Gee and Darren Chester wore masks, along with Liberals Karen Andrews, Angie Bell, Rowan Ramsey and Andrew Wallace.
Ryan had asked Butler about the risk of repeated infections with Covid-19 as the number of cases in Australia hit a record high.
“Repeat infections with Covid-19 tend to be more severe and carry a high risk of persistent symptoms for as long as six months, as well as an increased risk of hospitalization and death,” she said.
“There is an increasing risk of cumulative neurological and cardiovascular disease from infections from Covid 19.
“Can the Minister explain how he proposes to deal with the coming significant national burden of disability and chronic illness from re-infection with Covid-19?”
Butler said Covid was still “ravaging” society, estimating as many as half of all Australians had been infected this year, and there was a need to “get out” of lingering Covid.
“Long-term Covid is not easy to diagnose or treat,” Butler said.
“More and more Australians are suffering from long-term multisystem disorders that are proving difficult to diagnose and treat.
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“It is increasingly clear to me that we must develop a focused national response to the phenomenon of prolonged Covid.”
Butler said he had already begun discussions with the chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, about a long-term Covid strategy, but said the focus was on getting through the current Omicron wave.
The government has been reluctant to reinstate mask mandates, and Butler said widespread mandates were only necessary during the “emergency phase” of the pandemic.
“I think health authorities and health chiefs … have moved to a position where people really have to make their own decisions about how they behave, how they protect themselves and how they protect others around them,” Butler said earlier this month.