Updated: Apr 5
I have neglected my Australian family and friends only because you are smashing this! It may not feel like it, being squirreled away in your home, but you are one of the glimmering stars in the response to this pandemic.
That said, you need to stay vigilant, flu season is just around the corner, and if this bug does have some seasonal forcing to it, its ability to spread person-to-person may increase in the coming months as the temperature cools. That is why 'right now' is the important time to stomp your boot on this virus.
Why do I say you are smashing it?
Well you have bent the Epi curve, and bent it hard! Most other countries around the world, with more than a 1000 cases of COVID-19, are struggling to get the curve bending toward the ground. We are seeing some flatten, which is great news, but your only peer in bending that curve is South Korea.
Your success is from a mixture of social policies restricting movement, better hand and face hygiene behaviors, closing the borders, and testing.
I had mentioned previously, that most of your COVID-19 cases were imports. Infections occurring while travelling overseas but revealing themselves upon arrival at home. The second most cases were from contacts of those travelers. Well those imported cases have now stopped coming in and now we get a true measure of community spread of the disease.
The data shows that in NSW, 2100 of the 2500 cases are related to travel. Leaving just 400 cases of unknown origin. Queensland is the same, 1000 of the 1100 cases were related to travel. SA, with the highest testing rate in the world, same story ~400 of their 450 cases all travel related. These are known infections, these people and their contacts are in isolation or quarantine. That leaves fewer than 1000 known infections in Australia from community spread. There will be more cryptic cases, but these numbers are really good (as a pandemic goes)
You should also feel confident about the numbers, Australia is one of the world leaders in testing per capita. Only Iceland is in front of you. Within Australia, South Australia is leading the way, followed closely behind by NSW. Only Tasmania and WA are lagging and need to up their game.
You do have some hard yards in front of you. At some point, the economics of the shutdown will begin to override medical opinion. There will be the groundswell of people wanting to restart the economy, and may begin to ignore the guidelines. I urge you to keep doing your part, do a full court press now, and remain vigilant. Doing this you will emerge sooner with far less societal damage, than if parts of the community go rouge.
Please, also keep this in mind. If you manage to control the virus in Australia, to maintain that control, Australia needs to remain isolated from all other countries that are battling their outbreaks. Australia, if successful at containment, will have a large population of susceptible people until a vaccine is developed. I would imagine restrictions on overseas travel will remain in place for the rest of the year. Or, if they allow foreign travel, there will be severe restrictions on what you can do upon returning. You don't put all this effort into containment now, just to let the virus back in later. In Europe, there are discussions of "proof-of-infection' passports or "immune-passports" being required before those people can resume normal daily activities. I don't know if these will eventuate, but I'm certain nationalism is going to trump most other policies for a while.
The Australian government will have to work hard to get the timing right to balance the medical interests with the economic ones. I won’t even pretend to know when that is, but I can assure you it will be sooner than most other countries in the world.
Stay the course!
(Go get your Flu shot! - let's not have flu cases and COVID cases going at the same time!)