Australia could face a daunting third wave of coronavirus infection next year forcing the nation into an even stricter lockdown than experienced previously.
As Australia continues to roll back its restrictions, the ABC’s medical expert Dr Norman Swan expects a gradual second wave to come in the shape of a several controllable outbreaks similar to the Melbourne abattoir cluster.
“I'm not so worried about a second wave. We will have a second wave, but the second wave will be like little ripples on the ocean,” he said on the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.
He believes state governments are well equipped to eradicate any outbreak with its testing, tracing and outbreak response capabilities, yet as the months pass, he says the nation could become complacent as we edge towards a vaccine that’s predicted to arrive no earlier than the second half of 2021.
“I'm actually a little bit more worried about a potential third wave,” Dr Swan said.
Currently each state is committed to high levels of testing which has seen Victoria and NSW test more than about 10,000 people in a single day. Yet Dr Swan believes such levels, which are the result of hard work not only from the government but the community themselves, may be difficult to maintain moving forward.
“If we start to think there's no problem here and if we get a cough or a cold and we don't promote forward testing... then I think we could get to a situation in 2021, which is more dangerous and far, far more dangerous than where we are at the moment.”
Wave of infection could hit Australia ‘really hard’
“If we let our guard down as individuals as families as communities and as adults, I think we could have a really bad third wave... [it] could hit us really hard”.
He stressed the importance of maintaining the infrastructure state governments currently have in place including contact tracing and the mandatory quarantine of arrivals.
If a third wave of such magnitude was to occur, Dr Swan believes it would be difficult to convince society, already fatigued from previous lockdown measures, to resort back to such stringent restrictions.
“[We’d have] to get back to extreme social distancing and that's going to be very hard to do and there may be significant resistance against that,” he warned.
Australia’s worst day in terms of coronavirus cases came on March 28 with 460 cases. As of midday on Friday, there were 15 cases confirmed for the previous 24 hour period.
Singapore is one country which appeared to have avoided a large outbreak but as its citizens were handed more freedom cases began to spike to more than 1000 a day.
The city was forced to return to stringent restrictions in early April and are to continue to at least the end of May.
Further waves of infection have been a contentious issue in recent days, with the best-performing states and territories maintaining hardline approaches when it comes to border closures to ensure their low or non-existent active case count does not rise.
South Australia and the Northern Territory have both recently become virus-free and have insisted it has no intentions of opening up its borders to states with community transmission.
NSW still has hundreds of active cases however Premier Gladys Berejiklian has called on other states, particularly Queensland, to lift their border closures to allow tourism and save the nation’s dwindling economy.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.