15 million Australians could catch COVID-19 expert warns, as pandemic 'accelerates'

More than half of the nation’s population could contract COVID-19 within months if a lackadaisical approach to the virus from Australians continued, a forecaster specialising in infectious diseases has warned.

Dr Joel Miller from La Trobe University told News Corp that it “was not unreasonable” to suggest the current rate of infection could lead to 15 million people being infected within four months if attempts to control coronavirus were simply ignored.

Over the weekend, thousands of Australians cared little for Scott Morrison’s new social distancing restrictions and packed into cafes, bars and restaurants while Bondi Beach was swamped by locals and tourists soaking up the last of the summer sun.

Local councils forced the closure Sydney’s eastern suburbs beaches while Mr Morrison move to close down non-essential hospitality establishments.

Dr Miller said Australians needed to understand the threat of exponential growth in infection to ensure such restrictions were respected.

By the time Italy had implemented its most stringent lockdown on March 11, the country’s death toll had risen to 827.

That number continues to rise and currently sits at 6,077, however within the last few days, there has been a decrease in the daily total as is the case for the number of confirmed cases which is currently at 63,927.

This nearly two-week lag for the draconian measures to have the desired effect is due to the delayed onset of symptoms which can take up to two weeks for some people carrying the disease.

People outside a licensed venue before Mr Morrison's new restrictions came into effect on Monday. Source: AAP
People outside a licensed venue before Mr Morrison's new restrictions came into effect on Monday. Source: AAP

Experts are hoping Australia’s new restrictions will enable Australia’s rapidly growing cases (currently 1,682) to decelerate within three weeks, however Mr Morrison’s measures aren’t as strict as other nations badly hit by coronavirus.

Dr Miller said it was too early to say if measures implemented on Australia will curtail the virus’s spread.

“It’s definitely going to make a difference. Is it going to be enough to prevent the disease spreading? We don’t have hard enough data,” he said.

WHO says global pandemic is ‘accelerating’

The World Health Organisation said there are now 300,000 confirmed cases worldwide. The first 100,000 were reported in the first 67 days of the virus, the second 100,000 cases came 11 days later and the next 100,000 cases just four days after that, the global health body said.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there were also "alarming" reports of health workers getting sick.

He said he would be contacting the G20 heads of state to solve the global shortage of protective gear for health workers.

"More than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, from almost every country in the world," he told a press briefing in Geneva in Monday.

"The pandemic is accelerating ... but we're not prisoners to statistics. We're not helpless bystanders.

"We can change the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Tedros said asking people to stay home and other physical distancing measures were important to slow the coronavirus, but stressed they were defensive measures.

"To win, we need to attack the coronavirus with aggressive and targeted tactics - testing every suspected COVID-19 case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, and tracing and quarantining every close contact," he said.

He acknowledged that measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus may have unintended consequences by exacerbating shortages of essential protective gear.

"I will be addressing heads of state from the G20 countries," he vowed.

"I will be asking them to work together to increase production, avoid export bans and ensure equity of distribution on the basis of need."

With AAP

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