New research has revealed what life could be like in 2022 as Australia learns to live with Covid-19.
In what could be a “reality check” for some Australians, a leading epidemiologist has predicted a “careful, staged opening” if rising rates of vaccinations keep hospitalisations in check.
"The virus is in the community, the COVID-19 response transition has begun, and we are on track to live with the virus, but control the disease, from the first quarter of 2022," Professor Catherine Bennett wrote in Public Health Research & Practice, a peer-reviewed journal from the Sax Institute.
Prof Bennett, Deakin University's Chair in Epidemiology, told Yahoo News it means contact tracers will no longer need to find every Covid-19 case but warned there won’t be a big “freedom day” and some restrictions will persist for some time.
“An outbreak won’t be a statewide phenomenon, it will be more of a local response,” she explained.
“But we’re trying to get people to realise we are not going for that 'freedom day', that actually worries a lot of people. It will be a careful opening with safety measures. It’s about not letting cases get out of control as we shift our focus.”
Prof Bennett also expects a pivot in the discussion around deaths due to Covid.
“In public health, what you’re trying to do is save as many lives as you can. There is no other disease where you have a zero tolerance.”
Life after lockdown
Prof Bennett believes it’s unlikely Australians will be freed from their face masks when the country enters the next phase of the national plan in the country’s Covid response.
“Masks indoors are an effective tool and we want to have low impact levers in our control system,” she said, adding they should remain mandatory indoors until at least the first half of 2022.
Be prepared to book ahead or face waiting for a seat with density limits at venues likely to remain into next year.
“We will see them in place for some time because it will take a while to drive this thing. It’s about getting used to what we can do with the coverage we have, which will keep shifting over the next few months.”
Restrictions on major events will be the last to be lifted but they could be back by the end of summer.
“It’s about safe models, adjusting to what we had in the past, having those trial events and fully evaluating them,” she said.
Prof Bennett expects a number of soft starts with restricted numbers of fully vaccinated people.
“Stage it in a way that reduces the risk then maybe we can see some of those start up before summer is over, when it is easier to manage the virus.”
If you live in Sydney or Melbourne, it’s more likely you’ll be booking an international holiday with your vaccine passport if other states aren't ready to open borders.
“It is a risk some states will keep barriers up to protect themselves, not from the virus, but their lack of readiness,” she said.
“The promise of what normality will look like will be the greatest motivator.”
She suggested that perhaps international travel bubbles will only extend to parts of the east coast.
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