Taking care going forward
This week’s expert:
Prof Raina MacIntyre, Head of Biosecurity at the Kirby Institute, University of NSW
Drawn from an interview with Prof MacIntyre by Dr Harry Nespolon on the Healthed podcast Going Viral.
• The current stepwise approach to the lifting of restrictions in Australia is appropriate given the exceedingly low rates of community transmission and the wide availability of testing and the COVID safe app, which hopefully will ensure new cases of the disease are detected early and potential outbreaks are contained.
• With the lifting of restrictions, we need to pay extra attention to mitigation strategies such as social distancing and the use of facemasks in situations where maintaining social distancing is not possible.
• As medical professionals we should also be promoting the downloading of the COVID safe app and the wearing of facemasks to all those who plan to attend mass gatherings be they football games, protests or air travel.
• It might be worthwhile considering the instigation of social contracts whereby people are only allowed to attend the football or a protest or similar if they have downloaded the COVID safe app and agree to wear a facemask.
• Despite widespread claims that New Zealand has successfully eliminated COVID-19, as yet, there is no definition as to what constitutes ‘elimination’ from a WHO perspective. For example, WHO has determined that a country that has had no new cases of measles for a year can be said to have eliminated measles. We are still awaiting such a definition for COVID-19.
• It is likely we will see some limited international travel allowed in the near future to countries that appear to have controlled the COVID-19 infection such as New Zealand.
• It is unlikely we will see international travel to countries that still appear to have a high prevalence of COVID-19 such as the USA, despite the lifting of restrictions in those countries. Travel to such countries is likely to remain limited until such time as a vaccine is available.