Australia could achieve eradication of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus sweeping the world, a new study has shown.
The modelling carried out for the Federal Government reveals that if measures such as social distancing and border closures are maintained and continue to be effective, then eliminating the disease from the Australian mainland, even before a vaccine is developed, is a real prospect.
The model suggests that in Australia the current virus transmission level is low at around 0.5, meaning that for every two people that get COVID-19 only one other person becomes infected. If this is maintained then the virus eventually dies out in the population.
According to The Age, the team behind the modelling have not come up with a date that effective eradication could be achieved, but that the projections suggest months. They also warn that loosening of the current social restrictions could lead to a swift reversal of the downward trend of cases.
Professor Jodie McVernon, director of Doherty Epidemiology, which led the team that built the model said the COVID-19 epidemic in Australia “is in decline” but that people should not be complacent.
“If we were to release those measures now … those 10 cases today would produce 25 new cases over the course of their infection, not five,” she said, according to The Age.
“Because we’re all susceptible to this, the virus will come back from somewhere,” she added.
“We cannot return to life as normal. We need to get that in our consciousness.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy indicated on Monday he was doubtful about being able to eliminate the coronavirus as it would involve very aggressive long term border control.
Also this week, though, Australia’s Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham suggested that the bans on international travel into and out of Australia, in response to the coronavirus crisis, could be in place until next year in ongoing efforts to limit the importation of the virus into the country.
On Thursday, Australia’s official total of COVID-19 cases rose by just 47 overnight to 6,468. The death toll stood at a relatively low 63.