Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Grattan Institute report indicates that with 643 active COVID-19 cases remaining in Australia, everyone needs to keep social distancing to avoid a viral surge

The Grattan Institute, 21 June 2020:

Australia has not yet won the battle against COVID-19, and coming out of lockdown risks a second wave of infections. 

Grattan Institute modelling shows that reopening shops, schools, and workplaces heightens the risk of new infections, especially if people think the threat is over and ignore social distancing rules. 

Workplaces are particularly high risk and should be re-opened slowly, with as many people as possible continuing to work from home to minimise the potential for the virus to spread. 

Schools should enforce social distancing policies, and close if a COVID-19 case is detected. 

Mandatory quarantining of international arrivals must remain in place. 

And if a second wave of mass infections breaks out, governments will have to reimpose lockdowns. 

It’s dangerous for people to think this fight is over. 

The nature of the virus hasn’t changed – our behaviour has. 

If Australians go back to a pre-COVID normal, the virus could spread quickly and wildly, like it has elsewhere. 

Some of Australia’s states have effectively eliminated local transmission of COVID-19, and are keeping their borders closed to states where it persists. 

States should maintain different restrictions if they have different rates of local transmission. 

Restrictions are obviously needed much less in states which have effectively eliminated the virus from their local population. 

Australia should learn lessons from the way the health system responded to the pandemic. 

Telehealth has been embraced by doctors and patients; it should now be expanded to give more people quicker access to care. 

Mental health and hospital-in-the-home services should be bolstered. 

And the federal and state governments need to strengthen supply chains to ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and ventilators in the event of a second wave of COVID-19 infections. 

If Australia gets this transition to a ‘new normal’ wrong, we won’t benefit from the overdue health system changes that the crisis forced on us. 

That would be another tragedy on top of the trauma caused by the pandemic itself.

On the morning of 21 June 2020 there were still 643 active COVID-19 cases in Australia with 25 of these new cases confirmed overnight.

Only South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory appear to have had no active COVID-19 cases on 21 June.

Australia's current COVID-19 infection growth rate was 1.12% which is 0.13% above the growth rate required to reduce infections towards zero.

Grattan Institute Report No. 2020-09 recommendations for coming out of lockdown:

1. Maintain social distancing efforts while there are active COVID-19 cases locally 

∙ Maintain high levels of testing, contact tracing, and isolation. 

∙ Workplaces should be re-opened slowly, with as many people as possible continuing to work from home. Minimise the number of people interacting in workplaces where possible. 

∙ Enforce social distancing in workplaces. 

∙ Workers who show symptoms linked to COVID-19 must not be allowed to go to work. Their employers must allow them to work from home where possible. Governments should provide support for workers who do not have sick leave entitlements. 

∙ Schools must be closed, and rigorous contact tracing implemented, whenever a COVID-19 case is detected at the school. 

∙ Policies limiting patrons in shops should be maintained if local transmission of COVID-19 continues in particular cities. 

∙ People in the community must continue to take social distancing precautions. Where there are active cases, the government should encourage people to wear masks in public. 

2. Ramp up local lockdowns when outbreaks occur 

∙ State governments must be prepared to reimpose lockdowns to control major outbreaks. 

∙ Local lockdowns should be enacted to control local outbreaks.

3. When there are no active COVID-19 cases in Australia 

∙ Capacity constraints on workplaces, shops, and hospitality can be removed. People can start to move freely within and between states. 

∙ Testing must remain a routine part of life. If local cases are identified, contact tracers must be at the ready, and widespread testing should restart in affected areas. 

∙ Current mandatory quarantining of people arriving from overseas must remain in place. 

∙ Quarantine exemptions could be made with other countries, such as New Zealand, that also have no active COVID-19 cases and that have effective international arrival protocols in place.

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