Australia's chief medical officer has stressed the COVID-19 pandemic is still underway, predicting "another couple" of COVID-19 waves throughout the year, as well as a "long tail" that will impact the nation.
Professor Paul Kelly has also provided the latest figures for deaths with COVID-19, revealing 892 people have died so far this year, including 308 in aged care.
Professor Kelly has told Senate estimates on Thursday there had been a "number of waves" in Australia in the last 12 to 14 months with the Omicron variant.
But he said the most recent wave was "settling".
"There will be more waves in the future. I predict there will be at least another couple this year," the nation's top doctor told the hearing.
"So we need to be ready for those."
He said, as of February 8 this year, 18,190 Australians had died with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. 14,855 died in 2022 and 892 people had died so far in 2023.
Of the national figures, 5,075 people had died with COVID-19 in residential aged care since March 2020.
686 people died in aged care in 2020, 226 died in 2021 and 3855 died in aged care last year. So far this year, 308 people have died with COVID in aged care.
Professor Kelly said "we are still in a pandemic" and he pointed to the World Health Organisation recently deciding COVID-19 "remains a public health threat to the world".
"And we've seen what's happened in China recently in terms of very large rates of infection and deaths in that country, as they've opened up and accepted the 'living with COVID' situation," he said.
The New York Times has cited four separate academic teams that have come to similar estimates that China's COVID wave, which came after lifting stringent restrictions, may have killed between a million and 1.5 million people.
The chief medical officer will be among those appearing on Friday in Canberra before a Senate inquiry into long COVID.
"I think there is much more interest in post-COVID conditions. That so-called long COVID. That is something that we are continuing to look at," he said.
"I think there will be a long tail to this pandemic even once the acute phase is slowing down."
Both Professor Kelly and the secretary of the Department of Health, Professor Brendan Murphy, pointed to the Albanese government committing to a "deep inquiry" into Australia's pandemic response.
The timing and nature of that inquiry has not yet been determined.
"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," Professor Murphy said.
But they stressed that health programs are being continually reassessed.
"I think it would be useful to look back so that we can learn lessons for the coming years, not only in relation to COVID but other disease threats," Professor Kelly said.
"We have to learn lessons from this extraordinary time so we can be more prepared for the future."