SYDNEY, Australia – A leading epidemiologist in the country said that the ‘business as usual’ approach that people take as the COVID-19 restrictions in Australia eases could cause intermittent lockdowns in the future.
Nicholas Talley, a leading epidemiologist in Australia, said that the easing of restrictions in the country is a considerable risk for intermittent lockdowns moving forward. Mr Talley is from the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle. He said that the current modelling of the COVID-19 restrictions easing is putting the country at high risk for getting continued virus outbreaks.
According to the professor, some reasons and data suggest the lingering of undetected cases in a lot of communities. With the easing of restrictions, coronavirus disease is more likely to resurface and cause another surge of infections, he said.
Mr Talley warned that the current strategy of the Australian government is not doing enough to eradicate the virus, but only suppresses its spread. This method can leave the country in a vulnerable position according to him.
The professor mentioned that there are cases of the virus popping up in low levels all over the country. They are currently focusing on studying the outbreak curve, and Mr Talley said that right now, the country is still in a dangerous place to ease the restrictions prematurely.
Professor Talley commented that Australia would benefit if it adopts the same model and strategy that New Zealand tries to impose in eradicating the virus. He said that it would allow Australia to have zero cases of COVID-19 for four to six weeks before it relaxes coronavirus restrictions.
Based on the current modelling, on the other hand, the professor believes that Australians will most likely have to live with intermittent lockdowns moving forward.
Despite the intermittent records of new and active cases in the country, Australian states and other territories already started to relax its coronavirus restrictions.
On Monday, the Victorian Premier warned that the country only has one chance to get its move right. The state has been in a stage three lockdown restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic but has a schedule to ease restrictions by Wednesday.
Professor Talley mentioned that the experience and fight of the country against coronavirus disease have been fortunate. However, that doesn’t put the citizens of the state anywhere near COVID-19 immunity. Herd immunity against the virus is having around 60% of Australia’s total population infected by the virus and producing antibodies, he said.
Professor Talley added that herd immunity is also difficult to achieve despite the country having high rates of COVID-19 infection. In most cases, having a vaccine for the coronavirus disease is the best way to protect the whole population, he commented.
Going back to the way of life of the people before the pandemic happened is not great for the country. It will put Australia into a high risk of a second outbreak, which often will have a larger scale. That is usually the case for infectious diseases that happened in the past, like smallpox, mumps, and measles.
Professor Talley further noted that until the country has a COVID-19 vaccine available and ready, Australia will remain with a high risk of getting a second wave of the infections. More than that, he said, communities can also experience multiple outbreaks moving forward.
Mr Talley continued that the Australian government would have to balance tons of unknown factors if and when the coronavirus infection resurfaces in the future.
The professor raised different concerns about the ‘business as usual’ approach with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Some of his apprehensions include the compliance of the Australians when the second wave of infections does happen. Mr Talley said he also got concerns about the likely death rate if the country can avoid a lockdown and the economic impact if businesses and industries get forced to shut down a second time. Not to mention, it will have countless health and social effects as well, he said.
Professor Talley admitted that some data suggest there is a low risk of the disease getting transmitted in schools. However, it remains a complex issue, and more studies are necessary, he added.
Mr Talley said that the travel that people need to take from home to school and back using public transport poses a considerable risk for transmission. The widespread movement of people as schools open can ultimately lead to coronavirus outbreaks in communities.
In any case that another outbreak happened and will occur at a school, Mr Talley suggested that all institutions in that area should all face a lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday that the last thing Australia needs to do is follow other countries who lift their restrictions prematurely but experienced a second wave of the disease. It could lead the country to an even worse situation than it once experienced, he said.
Dr, Nick Coatsworth, the deputy chief medical officer of Australia, also said that the country has as much risk of getting a second wave of coronavirus as any other country in the world.