A leading biosecurity expert has warned Australia’s coronavirus mortality rate could be higher than that of China as the virus continues to spread across the country.
University of NSW Professor Raina Macintyre has warned the country’s ageing population could mean the death rate soars beyond the 3 to 4 per cent mortality rate the World Health Organisation and authorities in China have estimated.
While Monday saw a surge in cases at Sydney schools, Prof Macintyre said younger Australians were least at risk and urgent action was needed to protect older generations.
“With an ageing population and a more severe illness in older people, Australia may see a proportionately greater morbidity and mortality impact than China,” she explained in the Sax Institute’s Public Health Research & Practice journal.
According to Statista, 12.6 per cent of China’s population is over 65, compared to Australia’s 15.6 per cent.
“We should persist with all feasible measures for as long as possible,” Prof Macintyre said.
“Travel bans and quarantine are proven interventions, and especially critical for infections with pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmission.”
Australia’s three deaths to date, from 102 cases, have been people aged 78, 82 and 95.
The elder two were from the Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care facility in Macquarie Park where handfuls of residents were placed into isolation after a nurse at the residence tested positive for the virus.
The facility is one of several locations in a cluster of suburbs in Sydney’s northwest to have confirmed coronavirus cases, with the locations, including a hospital and childcare centre, having several links.
Prof Macintyre warned facilities with a high density of people, including schools and sporting and entertainment venues, were potential breeding grounds for the virus and unnecessary events should be avoided.
She said the government would have a difficult to decision to make when it came to softening the blow of the economic impact of the virus and protecting the public’s health.
While cases in NSW make up about half of all cases in Australia, Prof Macintyre praised NSW Health’s quick action to try and identify the virus’s source and those who may have been in contact with confirmed cases. There are currently 55 confirmed cases in the state.
Victoria closes first school amid virus outbreak
With the outbreak largely occurring in the country’s east, Victoria closed its first school amid fears of contraction.
Carey Baptist Grammar School in Kew will be closed to staff and students on Tuesday after an adult member of its community developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
"The health and safety of our community is our first priority," principal Jonathan Walter wrote in an email sent to parents on Monday night seen by AAP.
"Carey has been in contact with both the Department of Health and the Department of Education to ensure we have the latest information and advice.
"Based on this advice, Carey has made the decision to close the whole school for the day on Tuesday, March 10 while we assess the situation."
The person had been in direct contact with someone confirmed as having the coronavirus and is being tested, Mr Walter said.
Carey Grammar is the fourth school to shut down because of the widening coronavirus crisis; the other three are in NSW.
The closure comes as three new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Victoria taking the total to 15 and prompting a special meeting of cabinet ministers.
Premier Daniel Andrews' security and emergency management cabinet committee will meet on Tuesday morning to discuss the state's coronavirus preparations.
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