The chorus of expert medical and leadership voices calling for a lockdown of Australia is growing louder.
Professor Brendan Crabb, an infectious disease researcher and director of Melbourne’s Burnet Institute, believes further stages of containment “need to be taken immediately” and imposed for two to six weeks.
“The reason being that at this point in time, it’s all we’ve really got, quite a blunt instrument – lockdown,” he told ABC Radio on Thursday.
He said the number of cases, totalling more than 2800 nationwide with 13 deaths as of Friday morning, needs to remain “at an extremely low level”.
“I would recommend we pull every suppression lever we have now,” Prof Crabb said.
“That means not just flatten the curve, but bend the curve down to a very low level … and then you come out of that.”
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Prof Crabb described the situation as a “war”, telling The Sydney Morning Herald, “Every day matters now.”
“We are likely to be at the most extreme containment measures in two to three weeks in any case.
“So (that will mean) a lot more community transmission than if we went to the most extreme measures that we could take right now.”
He said with the testing regime previously being targeted at returning travellers and close contacts of cases, and given the incubation time for COVID-19, the current number of cases nationally reflects the country’s position 10 to 14 days ago.
Thursday night marked the first night New Zealand went into lockdown for at least four weeks, with the entire population ordered to self-isolate aside from essential workers.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told her people “success won’t be instant” and case numbers will still rise.
“But over time, we will see change if we all stick to the rules,” she said.
‘GO HARD, GO FAST’
Cases of coronavirus have been recorded in all Australian eight states and territories and the deaths have also been widespread.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is leading the lockdown charge, announcing on Wednesday that despite stage two social distancing restrictions being decided at National Cabinet this week, “There will also be a stage three.”
He said: “We need more time to get our health system ready for what’s coming.
“Every country in the world that is running ahead of us would give anything to have had more time.”
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Mr Andrews said the Prime Minister and other first ministers recognised that Victoria “is currently grappling with a more imminent threat than most other states” due to the number of its cases – 520.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton on Thursday called for a “go hard, go fast” approach.
“I don’t want us to be at a point where we’re making decisions about additional measures when it’s already escaped,” he said.
‘NSW WILL HAVE TO GO FURTHER’
The situation is even more concerning in NSW where 1219 cases of the coronavirus have so far been confirmed.
“If we don’t see things shifting in the numbers because of those actions, NSW will have to go further,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said yesterday.
She said there is “no need to panic” as supermarkets and essential items will always be available for purchase.
“But if things have not shifted because of the actions we took earlier in the week and actions which I am very pleased we took at that time, we will have to go further.
“I just want everyone to be prepared for that … because it is in the interests of public safety.”
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A total of 35 different Local Government Areas in NSW were this week reported as having at least one “locally acquired” case of coronavirus with the point of contact “not identified”.
NSW Health also recognised “clusters” of cases in Wollongong, Cessnock and the Sydney suburbs of Waverley, Ryde, Hornsby and Camperdown.
SENATOR BEGS FOR LOCKDOWN
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has pleaded with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to lock the country down before the weekend.
“Please make a decision that a leader would make. Play it safe, mate, and put us into lockdown unless it is for essential services. Please,” she said on Today on Thursday morning.
Earlier this week, Mr Morrison was asked whether a lockdown would be a good idea.
He said he would not close down even more businesses when “there’s no medical advice that they should” and that community social distancing measures were being imposed “on a scalable basis”.
“I don’t understand why we would cause that harm to a business and all their workers and their livelihoods for the sake of some sort of message convenience,” he said on Wednesday.
“I think that would be quite reckless.”
He said they had been advised not to extend closures “more broadly within the retail sector”.
“We are not going to do things to a business or someone’s job and livelihood where at this stage that … is not necessary,” the Prime Minister said.
But tens of thousands of jobs are already in limbo after multiple retailers decided this week to shut up shop.
Newly appointed Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said the federal government’s approach had been “hard and fast”.
“To say that we’ve gone light and slow would be completely inaccurate,” he said yesterday.
“The measures that we’ve got in at the moment are unprecedented. The impact they’re going to have on individual families is unprecedented.”
On ABC on Friday morning, Deputy Chief Health Officer Professor Michael Kidd said there have been “much more dramatic restrictions of movement around the country”, as announced by Mr Morrison across the week.
He acknowledged “some of the states and territories have gone into lockdown and closed their borders”.
“How this rolls out, whether it is rolling out in the right sequence to please everybody is, of course, a moot question,” he said.
“But please, please be really reassured with the advice that you’re seeing coming out from our Chief Medical Officer (Professor Brendan Murphy) and the advice that’s been given to our government.”
National Cabinet – comprising the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders – will meet again on Friday.
Originally published as ‘Every day matters now’: Lockdown urged