A leading disease expert has warned Daniel Andrews’ road map out of lockdown is flawed because his target of five daily cases is ‘unrealistic’ and Victoria’s contact tracing is too unreliable.
Professor Peter Collignon from the Australian National University, said Victoria’s strategy to eliminate COVID-19 is ‘not sustainable’ and unlikely to be achieved in the timeline set down by the state Premier.
Victorians have been cooped up since July 8 after a surge in coronavirus cases and only permitted to leave their homes for essential reasons like grocery shopping, health appointments, work and exercise.
Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne, and Stage 3 stay-at-home orders in rural Victoria, were scheduled to end on September 13.
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Professor Peter Collignon (pictured) has slammed Daniel Andrews’ roadmap out of lockdown
Police are pictured patrolling locked-down Melbourne along Elizabeth Street in the CBD
But Mr Andrew’s announced yesterday the draconian measures to stop the spread of the virus will continue until at least October 26, although some restrictions will be eased from midnight next Sunday.
According to Professor Collignon, there are two main reasons why the ambitious plan to get community transmission down to zero before fully reopening is flawed.
‘It’s much harder than any other state has tried and secondly, a lot hinges on very good contact tracing and so far Victoria has not been able to do it as good as other States,’ he told channel 9’s Today show.
‘They still don’t have quick contact tracing and there is a lot of undefined cases where they don’t know where they came from.’
Professor said that internationally, tougher restrictions have not necessarily resulted in better outcomes.
A pedestrian strolls past a closed shop as Melbourne extends Stage 4 lockdown restrictions
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) announced his four-step plan out of lockdown on Sunday
Places like California, Spain and New Zealand all enforced very strict lockdowns in an attempt to fully eliminate COVID-19, but later suffered a second wave of cases.
‘Nobody has achieved that except Taiwan. New Zealand tried but it didn’t work. It came back and that is almost inevitable over the next few years unless we have a vaccine that is 90 percent effective,’ he said.
Mr Andrews’ road map out of lockdown involves a four-step plan for the state to return to normality if case numbers continue to fall.
Under the plan, long-suffering residents will have to wait until the daily average of new cases in the past 14 days reaches five of less before retail stores can reopen and indoor public gatherings of just 10 people can take place.
November 23 is the target date for this to happen.
But Professor Collignon was not the only disease expert to publicly criticise the strategy.
Chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, Professor Catherine Bennett, says the plan is ‘very bizarre’ and that she was ‘really disappointed’.
‘You don’t need to keep us in Stage 4, you just need to have a really smart path that keeps elimination suppressed but starts to open up, and then you get the best of both worlds: you’ve got people on board, you’ve got good compliance, and that’s how we wrap up the end of this tail,’ she told 3AW radio on Monday.
A lone runner is pictured getting her one hour of essential exercise by Melbourne’s Yarra River
Professor Peter Collignon has criticised Victorian contact tracers for being too slow. Pictured: Lonsdale Street in Melbourne
Professor Bennett said the efforts of the state government should be centered on the aged care and health settings because that is where the majority of transmissions are now taking occurring.
‘We certainly know in the tail that we’ve got particular areas that should be priority areas. That’s what you focus on,’ she said.
But despite her opposition to the extended restrictions, she urged Victorians to follow all the rules handed down by the state government.
‘The numbers are the key here not the dates, so I think we just go hard. We may not like this road but the faster we move through it, the better,’ Professor Bennett said.
On Monday Victoria has recorded 41 new COVID-19 cases – the state’s lowest daily count in since June 27 – and nine deaths.
Over 1850 coronavirus cases are still active in the state.
Another disease expert, Professor Catherine Bennett, says the Daniel Andrews’ plan is ‘very bizarre’ and she was ‘really disappointed’. Pictured: Flinders Street Melbourne
MELBOURNE’S ROADMAP OUT OF COVID-19 LOCKDOWN – WHAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DO AND WHEN:
Step one: The first step will come in to place on September 13.
Step two: The second step will be implemented when Melbourne has 30-50 COVID-19 cases a day on average over the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on September 28.
Step three: The move to step three will occur when there is a daily statewide average of five new cases over the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on October 26.
Step four: The move to step four will come when there have been no new COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on November 23.
COVID Normal: After 28 days of no new COVID-19 cases, things will return to normal.
Step one – 11.59pm on September 13:
– Curfew will be eased to 9pm-5am
– People can still only leave home for the four reasons (shopping, exercise, work and care or medical attention)
– Public gatherings increased to two people, or a household, for a maximum of two hours
– Singles can have one nominated person to their home as part of the ‘singles social bubble’
– Childcare and early educators to remain closed
– Schools will continue to learn remotely unless they have exemptions
– Adult education to continue to be done remotely, unless they have exemption
– Only go to work if you are in a permitted industry
– Cafes and restaurants will continue with take away only
– Retail businesses will remain open for essential shopping, with others only operating with click and collect
– Only one person per household can do the essential shopping
Step two – September 28:
– Public gatherings increase again to five people from a maximum of two households
– Childcare and early educators can re-open
– Schools to continue with remote learning, but Prep to Grade Two and Year 11 and Year 12 students will gradually return to class in Term 4
– There will be an increase to permitted workplaces
Step three – October 26:
– Curfew is no longer in place
– There are no restrictions on leaving home
– Public gatherings increase to 10 people together outdoors
– A ‘household bubble’ will be introduced, so five people from one house can visit another
– Remote learning to continue, but Grades 3 to Year 11 can gradually return to class
– Adult education to continue to be done remotely, but hands on classes will see a phased return to onsite
– Work from home is encouraged
– Up to 10 people can eat together at restaurants and cafes, with the majority of tables outdoor
– Retail shops to reopen, with hairdresses operating under safety measures but beauty stores to remain closed
– Real estate agents can conduct private inspections by appointment
– The one person per household limit on shopping is to be revoked
Step four – November 23:
– Public gatherings to increase to 50 people outdoors
– Up to 20 visitors can attend a home at any one time
– All adult education will return to onsite with safety measures in place
– Groups limited to 20 indoors and a maximum of 50 patrons per venue
– All retail stores to reopen, while real estate agents can operate with safety measures and by keeping a record of attendants
Step five – COVID normal:
– Public gatherings have no restriction
– There will also be no restriction on visitors to homes
– Phased return to onsite work for work from home workers
– Schools to reopen as normal
– Restrictions on hospitality removed, but venues to continue keeping records