Victoria could be forced to operate as a separate country to Australia until coronavirus is under control, according to a leading epidemiologist.
The state recorded 484 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday with 44 of Australia’s 128 deaths.
More than 100 school and childcare centres in Victoria have been closed.
Professor Tony Blakely, from Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Melbourne, told Yahoo News Australia, “why would any state let Victorians in if they have the virus?”
“Until we get vaccines Victoria and the rest of the country will be operating as two separate countries,” he said on Thursday.
“The most desirable outcome is elimination but there’s a chance we might not find a vaccine.”
Professor Blakely believes elimination is achieved when there is no community transmission and as of Wednesday 1898 cases in Victoria remain under investigation, while 1074 were acquired in Australia from an unknown source and 2332 were contracted from confirmed cases.
Finding a vaccine for a new virus typically takes years of research. Scientific research around the world is being undertaken at breakneck speed and there are hopes a vaccine will be broadly available by mid 2021, the BBC reported this week.
Until then long-term restrictions for Victoria seem likely.
The move to Stage Four lockdown in Victoria
There’s been discussion about Stage Four lockdowns in Victoria but premier Daniel Andrews is yet to announce any plan for them.
Mr Andrews has said tightening restrictions would come under view as cases come in daily.
Professor Blakely wrote in University of Melbourne’s research journal Pursuit, he doesn’t know what stage four restrictions would look like.
But there are two reasons he believes Victoria could or should implement them: to aim for total elimination of coronavirus or intensive care units have reached capacity.
“But I cannot support, and do not think the community should support, a blunt Stage 4 lockdown ‘just’ to take the edge off the current case load and ‘aggressively suppress’ the virus when it will simply come back again,” he wrote.
“Rather, we need ‘smarter suppression’ if we are not going to have a go at elimination.”
Professor Blakely believes hard lockdowns could have “severe” economic and social impacts.
He is, however, advocating for virus elimination and told the ABC on Wednesday “a hard lockdown is used for two reasons”.
“One is you are actually going for elimination, which I am still advocating for because I think that is the better strategy in the medium to long-term, for 18 months to two years, we would be much better to be in that state,” he told the ABC.
“The other reason to use it is if your ICU capacity or health services are under threat. We are not at that level yet. It would be about 2,500 a day before ICU capacity was starting to get near to being under threat.”
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Victoria is at a “really challenging phase of this pandemic”.
Professor Sutton has predicted daily cases could reach as high as 600 in the coming days.
“I think that will be an even greater challenge in days ahead,” he said.
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