One of Australia’s leading think tanks has called on Victoria to “finish the job” and eliminate community transmission as it advises against Melbourne exiting Stage 4 lockdown.
The Grattan Institute’s push for zero locally acquired cases across Australia will undoubtedly fuel the suppression versus eradication debate.
It’s a debate that intensified after the nation came agonisingly close to driving out COVID-19 in the wake of the first wave.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews was again pressed on the matter during Thursday’s press conference. He was asked if he’d be tempted to break away from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s suppression strategy.
“I just take you back to comments the prime minister made a couple of months ago about the fact that, you know, low to no community transmission is something that has to guide us,” he said, reiterating the strategy has not changed.
On Friday when asked directly about the report, he said there “many different opinions” on Australia’s strategies.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to think that we are going to hold these restrictions on in order to achieve that sort of outcome,” he said.
The Grattan Institute’s new report strongly advises for Australia to pursue eradication and said Victoria cannot consider easing any restrictions until it has reached 20 daily infections.
On Thursday, the state recorded a further 113 infections, and then 81 cases on Friday – a far cry from the 40 cases a day Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton had hoped for by Sunday.
Mr Andrews is set to release his roadmap out of restrictions on Sunday, with speculation growing over whether Stage 4 restrictions will be extended beyond their initial six-week period due to end on September 13.
Modelling from the University of Melbourne suggests Victoria can achieve zero cases in the community by the end of October if widespread social distancing and mask usage is adhered to.
“As long as Stage 4 lockdowns are maintained, Victoria’s path is likely to be closer to [achieving zero cases],” the report explained.
While it is not known how long it will take for Victoria to reach 20 daily cases, if the Grattan Institute’s suggestion was adopted, it would likely mean several more weeks of Stage 4 restrictions.
“Opening up too early, while coronavirus is still in the community, runs the risk of future outbreaks, reimposed lockdowns, renewed economic disruption, and more deaths,” it explained.
“Having come this far, we should finish the job.
“COVID is a classic case of short-term pain for long-term gain. Getting cases down to zero, and keeping them there, will be hard work – but it will save lives and enable the economy to recover more quickly.”
Current NSW situation ‘dangerous’
The Grattan Institute believes all states and territories should adopt a unified goal led by the National Cabinet to eradicate the virus.
“The quicker this is done the better, because the longer lockdowns linger, the more harm is done to people’s livelihoods,” it explained.
It suggested NSW’s current situation of low levels of transmission in the community as “dangerous”.
“The longer the virus is in the community, the greater the risk of breakouts requiring lockdowns to be reimposed to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed,” it said.
NSW Health confirmed eight cases on Friday, down from 17 on Thursday
While daily locally acquired cases have been suppressed to under 20 since the Crossroads Hotel Cluster began in July, it has routinely fluctuated.
“That’s a ‘yo-yo’ strategy – the economy could be seized with uncertainty as businesses open, close, open, and close again.”
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