Independent MP Monique Ryan, a former pediatric neurologist, berated the Coalition MPs for not wearing masks in the House of Representatives.
Ryan, who ousted Josh Frydenberg from his Kooyong seat in Melbourne in the May elections, was disturbed by the Coalition benches after asking health minister Mark Butler how the government intended to handle the looming burden of the long Covid.
When the MPs intervened, he paused his question and pointed to the opposition benches to say “put on your masks”.
He later said he did not appreciate the interruption “as he spoke of serious risks of repeated Covid infections.”
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“I particularly don’t appreciate being interrupted by the screams of LNP MPs who refuse to wear masks. We all have a duty to take care of each other, “she said on Twitter.
Since parliament resumed last week, there has been a clear split in the House of Representatives chamber, with all Labor MPs wearing masks versus only a handful of coalition MPs.
Citizens 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 repeat infections with Covid-19 as the number of cases in Australia hit record highs.
“Repeated infections from Covid-19 tend to be more severe and carry a high risk of persisting symptoms for up to six months, as well as an increased risk of hospitalization and death,” he said.
“There is a growing risk of cumulative neurological and cardiovascular disease from Covid 19 infections.
“Can the minister explain how he proposes to manage the impending severe national burden of disability and chronic disease from repeated Covid-19 infections?”
Butler said Covid was still “ravaging” the community, estimating that up to half of all Australians had been infected this year and there was a need to “reckon” with the long-standing Covid.
“Long Covid isn’t easy to diagnose or treat,” Butler said.
“More and more Australians are suffering from long-term multisystem disorders which prove difficult to diagnose and treat.
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“It is increasingly clear to me that we will have to develop a targeted response at a national level to the phenomenon of long Covid”.
Butler said he had already started discussions with chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, about a lengthy Covid strategy, but said the goal was to overcome the current Omicron wave.
The government has been reluctant to reintroduce the mask warrants, with Butler saying that the widespread warrants were only needed in the “emergency” phase of the pandemic.
“I think health authorities and senior health officials … have really moved into a position where people will have to make their own decisions about how they behave, how they protect themselves and how they protect others around them,” he said in earlier Butler this month.