One of the government’s leading medical officers has warned the nation is “a victim of our own success”, believing a population that has largely steered clear of coronavirus like Australia is vulnerable to a second wave of infection.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly addressed the media on Wednesday, warning what may be to come as several states and territories begin easing their COVID-19 restrictions.
“In one sense we're victims of our success to an extent, because we've had so few people that have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and we are nowhere near that concept of herd immunity," he said.
"That would be one way of guarding against a second wave.”
But he stressed that is not the goal of the Australian government due to the high death rate witnessed in other parts of the world, particularly Europe and the US.
"We've seen what that has done in other parts of the world, so we won't be going to that," he said.
With basically no level of immunity in the community, Australia must rely on three key areas previously outlined by Scott Morrison to protect the country from a second wave that is more than possible as restrictions are eased.
Testing, contact tracing and responding to outbreaks are three methods that the government has worked to improve to ensure Australia can contain any outbreaks.
On Thursday, Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed a significant step was taken in ensuring widespread testing after Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest managed to acquire 10 million tests on behalf of Australia.
"If a second wave does occur, we'll deal with it quickly and we'll respond to it," Professor Kelly said.
Australian second wave ‘a concern’
Infection rates have grown overseas after strict lockdown measures have been lifted, with Germany the latest example after easing rules last week.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said a second wave is possible and the nation must continue to follow social distancing measures amid eased restrictions to minimise its impact.
“It's fair to say that a second wave is a concern and the reason why all Australians will not remain complacent,” he told ABC Breakfast on Thursday.
He said if Australia can effectively implement ramped up testing, improved contact tracing and more efficient responses to outbreaks, the country would be able to manage a second wave.
“All those things together mean we aim to avoid or minimise any second wave,” he said.
Morrison urges Australians to download government app
On Wednesday, Mr Morrison appeared confident over Australia’s ability to safely lift restrictions, and highlighted the importance of the government’s new tracking app COVIDSafe.
"Of course, there will be outbreaks. That is what living with the virus will be like," he said.
"That is why the protections that we put in place for a COVIDSafe Australia are so important."
The COVIDSafe tracing app has been downloaded by almost three million Australians, putting it on course to achieve an effective take-up rate.
Health authorities are also confident there is capacity within intensive care units to treat outbreaks of the disease.
Professor Kelly said it was likely rules would be eased in the lead-up to May 11, a key date for reviewing bigger restrictions.
"There will be many announcements about changes in the way we'll be living our lives and hopefully getting back to some sort of new normality in living in a COVID-19-safe society," he said.
The National Cabinet will meet on Friday to nut out guidelines for elite and community sport to return as debate continues over the AFL and NRL restarting.
The meeting of state and federal leaders will also look at the expanded testing regime to be conducted with the new kits.
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