A leading epidemiologist has suggested the Victorian government only open up parts of Melbourne as it looks to safely navigate its way out of Stage 4 coronavirus restrictions.
On Monday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced he will unveil his roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday after mounting public pressure to do so, including a scathing on-air attack from Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
While Mr Andrews once again held his cards close to his chest, insisting at this stage he could not make any promises on what the exit strategy would look like, one of Australia’s leading epidemiologists has proposed a strategy she believes will effectively see large parts of Melbourne functioning close to normality soon.
UNSW Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, who is an advisor to the World Health Organisation, believes certain suburbs deemed as hotspots should remain in lockdown and be “ring-fenced”, meaning they are shut off from the rest of the city, with access in and out of those suburbs restricted.
While much attention has been placed on a ‘magic number’ of daily infections that would allow the government to ease restrictions, Professor McLaws previously told Yahoo News Australia the most effective way of analysing the data is over a two-week period.
She believes widespread restrictions can only be considered to be lifted once cumulative cases over the last 14 days drops under 100.
Over 100 she deems as the “red-zone” in a traffic light system. On Monday she told 7News.com.au the green zone is capped at 59, while up to 100 is the amber zone where the government should be on high-alert.
On Monday, Mr Andrews indicated a traffic light system would be in effect for reopening, however it is unclear if it’s the same system Prof McLaws advocates.
With 73 new cases confirmed on Monday alone, such a level of infection, which would require daily infections into single digits, appears to be a long way off.
That’s where Prof McLaws proposals of ring-fencing comes in, with the system enabling the majority of a frustrated five million residents to “get a bit of compassion back”, she told the ABC.
Yet Prof McLaws warned the system would be tough on those inside the hotspot areas, some of whom have been under ramped up restrictions weeks before entering the Stage 4 restrictions.
"But if you're going to do that, you can't have ring-fence lite. You can't have a lockdown in a hotspot, but let people leave for work," she said.
The majority of Melbourne’s hotspots continue to lie around the north and west of the city, areas that were previously targeted as cases began to soar in early July.
It is an idea Prof McLaws pushed for as Melbourne entered its selective lockdown, however she pointed towards the more stringent measures China had implemented during the pandemic which completely shut off hotspot areas from the rest of society.
Lockdowns are working. Mr Andrews please continue for another 11 days (then Vic will be in Green zone) pic.twitter.com/KGm4pkx4N9— Mary-Louise McLaws (@MarylouiseMcla1) August 31, 2020
On Monday, after news of Mr Andrews’ impending roadmap, Prof McLaws called for the state to enforce the lockdowns for at least 11 more days to drive cumulative cases over 14 days right down.
Mr Andrews told reporters he could not guarantee that the Stage 4 lockdown would end on September 13 following its six-week course.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Victoria was “more or less on track” and believed daily cases could drop to 40 by the end of the week.
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