Although Australia is doing well flattening the COVID-19 curve, things don’t look that great elsewhere in the world. As of 15 April, the total number of reported cases worldwide has passed 2 million, merely 2 weeks after reaching 1 million. The US leads the daily increase, followed by Spain and Italy.
The pandemic has affected almost every corner of the globe, with only a few island nations not yet reporting cases.
Could we have ended up similar to the US if Australia didn’t introduce preventative measures in time?
Researchers form the University of Melbourne and the Peter Doherty Institute made important contributions to the government’s response with theoretical models. The models were presented to the government in early February and made public recently.
What could have happened?
The models predicted that without measures to mitigate the spread, hospitals would be overwhelmed. The worst-case scenario would have been a peak daily demand for 35,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds by around May.
However, if social distancing, isolation and quarantine were put in place (luckily, they were), the models predicted a demand of less than 5000 ICU beds. Currently, Australia has around 2200 ICU beds, but plans to increase that to 7000.
It seems that we performed better than even the better scenario predicted by the models, likely due to additional measures that were introduced.
- Restricted entry from travellers from countries with an early COVID-19 outbreak since February.
- Contact tracing, quarantine, isolation and testing.
- Closed or restricted businesses, events and gatherings.
- The public was informed of the importance of social distancing and the vast majority cooperated.
- Launched an information and symptom tracker app that increased public awareness.
Overall, we are in a lucky position to be thinking about the way out of this crisis. The experts are continuing to analyse data collected since February and model what may happen next. Right now, nobody knows if the coronavirus will come back again and again like the season flu and some experts think that this is a likely scenario. Therefore, we can’t put the guard down yet! Hopefully, many things may return to normal gradually, but maybe not for international traveling.