Australia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic continues to show promising signs but community transmission of the disease remains a serious concern, the nation’s Chief Medical Officer has warned.
Professor Brendan Murphy says government modelling has shown indications Australia is flattening the curve against the disease, which has claimed 46 lives nationwide.
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However, he said as a nation no one can be complacent – with more than 500 people contracting the virus “from someone in the community who doesn’t know they are infected”.
“There are people walking around in our communities who can be transmitting this without knowing they have had it,” Prof. Murphy told reporters today after a meeting of the National Cabinet.
“That is why we cannot relax what we’ve been doing… we have seen some very impressive reductions in growth in transmission of COVID-19 but if we in anyway lose that rigour that the Australian community has embraced particularly over Easter, it could all come undone.
“We are flattening the curve … but complacency is the biggest risk.”
Prof. Murphy said as Australia has a relatively low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to the rest of the world, no real-life modelling is currently available. Instead, the government has used international data to model “artificial scenarios”.
He said the modelling focused on worst-case theoretical scenarios to see if the Australian health system has “the right tools”.
It also looked at the risk of people travelling to Australia from other countries. He said this modelling was used to determine the nation’s travel and border restrictions.
“The most important thing would be looking at in this health system capacity modelling was what is our intensive care unit bed capacity and what is the intensive care unit bed demand,” he said, adding that the government has already planned to triple ICU bed capacity.
“What we’re going to focus our modelling on is working out what the infectivity rate what’s likely to happen, where those transmission events are occurring.
“But we’re seeing positives in people in the quarantine hotels… we’re now starting to see in the modelling data the true impact of the wonderful uptake by the Australian community of social distancing and general hygiene measures some of those messages I think will stay with us forever even when this is over.
“The most important message from this model is we know that the tools we are using our do work and we can scale them up and down as necessary and the date we have so far suggest that they are working.”
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