Coronavirus modelling reveals 'horror scenario' if Australia had done nothing

Strict social distancing measures have prevented Australia's intensive care units from being overwhelmed by up to 35,000 coronavirus patients.

Doherty Institute modelling provided to federal and state leaders, and released publicly on Tuesday, looked at a worst-case scenario based on international experience.

It showed if no action had been taken to stop the spread of the disease, around 23 million people, or 89 per cent of the population, could have been infected.

If no action had been taken to stop the spread of the disease, around 23 million people, or 89 per cent of the population, could have been infected. Source: AAP

Under that scenario, the health system would have crumbled and just 15 per cent of people who needed intensive care would have been able to access it.

Letting the coronavirus run its course with no intervention, hospital ICUs could see almost 2000 seriously ill patients per million people. 

With quarantine and isolation, the figure drops to just above 500 patients, according to the data published by the Doherty Institute.

“An unmitigated COVID-19 epidemic would dramatically exceed the capacity of the Australian health system, over a prolonged period,” researchers wrote.

The modelling prompted the strong social measures now in place across the country, with gatherings, travel and economic activity curtailed.

It showed the strain on the system could be massively reduced if Australia turned to quarantine and social distancing.

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy details the modelling. Source: AAP

As a result of those measures, the infection curve is trending in the right direction and authorities are cautiously confident the health system will cope under the strain of the coronavirus.

Now the modelling effort will turn to Australian data in coming weeks, as health chiefs consider when restrictions may be relaxed.

Scott Morrison stressed the data released so far does not equate to a prediction.

"The modelling work is theoretical," he said on Tuesday.

"It is not based on Australian case data and does not model Australian responses.

“The modelling does not predict what will happen in Australia. It does not tell you how many Australians will contract the virus or how many Australians will succumb to that virus."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference on Tuesday. Source: AAP

Easter weekend warning

During his press conference on Tuesday, the prime minister also urged Australians to “stay home” for the Easter weekend.

“Failure to do so this weekend would completely undo everything we’ve achieved so far together, or potentially worse,” he said.

"We are on the right track, controlling the spread, building the capacity of our health system and buying time.

"We must continue to do what we are doing. That's how we will get through it.”

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