Australia’s COVID strategy from now
This week’s expert: Prof Peter Collignon, Infectious Diseases Physician and Microbiologist, Canberra Hospital; Professor, ANU Medical School.
As outlined by ANU’s Prof Peter Collignon in an interview with Dr Harry Nespolon on the Healthed podcast Going Viral.
• Australia’s current strategy aimed at containment and mitigation of COVID-19 is working well. Australia is in a much better place than was originally predicted according to early modelling.
• Total eradication of the virus is unlikely and is probably an unrealistic goal. More likely we will have to accept a certain level of risk with low levels of ongoing transmission in the community when we ease current restrictions.
• Current prevention practices such as social distancing and hand hygiene will need to continue until at least the end of October, as winter increases the risk of infection.
• Of all the current strategies that have been put in place to slow the spread of the virus, the most effective appears to have been stopping international travel and avoiding large crowds of people, particularly indoors. New Zealand’s restrictions have been stricter than Australia’s and yet the extra measures have not equated to additional success.
• It is likely the ban against mass gatherings will continue for many months. Evidence from overseas have shown people in their 20s and 30s get more infections than any other age group, and even though they are less likely to get seriously ill with the infection, they represent a major transmission risk to others in the community who are more vulnerable.
• The proposed strategy to only apply restrictions to those who are most vulnerable does not appear to have been successful in other countries where it has been tried. Sweden (population 7.5 million) adopted this strategy and now has a death toll of over 2000 people. Similarly, the UK and Holland started with this strategy but quickly changed their approach.
• Serological antibody tests are likely to have a role when they become available. They will not be suitable for acute diagnosis but will be able to give a retrospective diagnosis and importantly will hopefully be able to identify which people are likely to be immune.
• While there have been reports of some people catching COVID more than once, the current data suggests that being infected does confer immunity.
• A vaccine is not a given, and even if one is developed, it is unlikely to be available until at least 18 to 24 months, after it has been proven to be both effective and safe.