(Australian Associated Press)
Almost one in 10 people have put off a visit to the GP in the past year due to COVID-19, even while suffering a medical issue.
New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found 9.8 per cent of people reported delaying their visit to the doctor or not going at all as a result of the pandemic.
The results were even higher for visits to dentists, which saw 12.2 per cent of patients delaying their visit.
Women were more likely to put off a medical consult than men due to the pandemic, while those between 25 and 34 years of age were more likely put off their appointment.
While many doctor appointments moved online due to COVID-19, the bureau’s health statistics spokesman Robert Long said telehealth consults were here to stay despite lockdowns and restrictions easing.
“In 2020/21, of those who had a telehealth consultation, 83.4 per cent reported that they would use telehealth for a consultation if it was offered,” he said.
Health experts have previously warned more severe cases of illnesses could emerge following lockdowns due to people putting off regular medical checks.
It comes as Australia’s vaccine rate continued to climb, with more than 136,000 doses administered in the past day.
The latest figures show 83.9 per cent of those 16 and over are fully vaccinated, while the single-dose rate now stands at 90.9 per cent.
Meanwhile, the government is set to embark on a COVID-19 booster shot advertising blitz.
The federal health department will spend more than $2.2 million on an upcoming mailout advertising campaign for the top-up shot, according to tender documents.
More than 250,000 booster shots have been administered since they were approved by the medical regulator.
However, the fully vaccinated rate for Indigenous Australians remains well below that of the overall population.
Just under 58 per cent of the national Indigenous population have received both doses.
The disparity in vaccine rates has been cast into the spotlight by a COVID-19 outbreak in the Northern Territory.
A cluster of cases in the town of Katherine and the remote community of Robinson River has grown to 19, after eight new cases were identified on Wednesday.
All of the new cases were Indigenous, including a three-week-old girl.
Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s family members are at the centre of the Northern Territory outbreak.
Her sister carried the virus into Robinson River and nine of the politician’s family members tested positive on Tuesday.
“This is our worst fears realised,” Senator McCarthy told ABC TV on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to arrest this in terms of the COVID outbreak before we can actually really seriously consider when it is safe to open up.”
Meanwhile, there were 231 new cases and zero deaths reported in NSW, while Victoria registered an uptick in infections, reporting nine deaths and 996 cases.
No new local cases were reported in Queensland while there were six in the ACT.