A leading infectious diseases expert has accused Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews of chasing an eradication strategy, going against the National Cabinet’s agreement to suppress the virus.
Professor Peter Collignon from the Australian National University told Channel Nine’s Today show such a coronavirus strategy wasn’t sustainable, hitting out at the stringent steps outlined by Mr Andrews on Sunday as part of his roadmap out of lockdown.
“It is not sustainable for the long-term and it is a plan to get elimination. No-one has done that except Taiwan... New Zealand tried but it came back,” he said.
Prof Collignon said the roadmap was “not achievable”, with Step Three requiring less than 5 daily cases on average over a 14-day period.
Yet Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton stressed on Monday the steps are the only option, telling ABC Breakfast they will enable the state to avoid a scenario that is “too awful to contemplate”.
Mr Andrews has repeatedly denied the state’s strategy has shifted to one pursuing elimination of the virus, however he said last week it could well be a by-product of measures put in place.
“We’ve got to defeat this and do it properly,” he told The Sunday Project.
Prof Sutton said it wasn’t a total elimination strategy however, eliminating community transmission was the goal.
“It is an aggressive suppression strategy that effectively eliminates community transmission,” he told ABC Breakfast.
“That's what we're looking to get to. And that's what is going to help guarantee, or give us the greatest confidence possible that we can keep it under wraps for weeks and months ahead of us.”
NSW situation ‘different’, CHO says
Prof Sutton addressed concerns that if the roadmap was applied to NSW, its current level of infection means the state would find itself under lockdown.
“NSW is in a different situation. They don't have the levels of community transmission that Victoria has got,” he said.
“They haven't had the kind of numbers that we've had to move through with these ongoing transmission chains that are hard to get on top of.”
NSW has not achieved below an average of five daily cases over a two-week period in over two months.
And while Prime Minister Scott Morrison has heaped praise on NSW’s response to the virus, allowing the state’s residents relative freedom while suppressing daily infections to below 20, Prof Sutton said it wasn’t a chance Victoria was willing to take.
“I don't want to provide commentary on NSW’s approach, but we do know that whenever there are grumbling cases that just continue along - there's always a risk of it taking off again, as we've seen in South Korea, as we saw in Singapore,” he said.
Prof Sutton said he was “confident” the state could reach the desired 28-day period of no transmission.
“We know that most of Australia got to that. We know that we can get to that with the same kind of metrics,” he said.
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