Covid study warns ‘worst is yet to come’

By | August 26, 2021

New research has found daily covid numbers could rise to 6000 cases under current settings and more than 40,000 if restrictions are lifted.

New research by the University of Sydney has found that daily Covid-19 could reach 6000 cases by October and a whopping 40,000 cases a day if restrictions are lifted.

The complex modelling was led by Professor Mikhail Prokopenko, Director of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Complex Systems, who used data available until August 25.

He found that under the current settings, daily national Covid-19 case numbers will continue to climb and could peak between 1500 and 6000 a day by early October.

If restrictions are removed once 80 per cent of adults are vaccinated, new daily cases will rapidly grow and may approach 40,000 per day across Australia. The total number of Australians infected in the month following reopening may exceed half a million, even with continued testing, tracing, isolation, quarantine and international travel restrictions.

“Our extended projections suggest that Delta cases will initially peak in early October and will begin to drop off as more of the population is vaccinated. However, consistent adherence to social distancing is important to prevent a sharp peak in cases,” Professor Prokopenko said.

“Although it is encouraging that more people are being vaccinated, we can expect to see a rapid increase in cases when we exit the lockdown. In fact, our modelling suggests the worst is yet to come if the restrictions are removed too soon and too abruptly.

Professor Prokopenko said pandemic growth is expected to slow from mid-December, when 75 per cent of the population is projected to be vaccinated and natural immunity will be developed by three to five per cent of the entire population by the end of the year.

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“The clear take away is this – with increasing vaccinations there is a path out of the current outbreak, but as a society we can either choose to land softly or come to a dramatic crash landing,” he said. “This will depend on the community continuing its high vaccine uptake, people maintaining social distancing over the coming months, and our healthcare system preparing and bolstering itself to meet the surge of hospitalisations which will come after the lockdown.

“Although the current situation is frustrating, the lockdown end is now in sight, and we must not lose our focus until it is safe to do so. As Mahatma Gandhi famously asserted, `to lose patience is to lose the battle’ – this is a warning we must now all heed,” he said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has pledged to keep some restrictions in place even after the 80 per cent vaccination threshold is reached.

Dr Kerry Chant earlier this week said that mask wearing might remain “for years” to battle Covid-19.

It comes as NSW reached a grim new Covid-19 record, with 1029 cases and three deaths confirmed on Thursday.

Despite the spike in infections, Ms Berejiklian has announced a raft of easing restrictions for vaccinated residents surrounding outdoor gatherings, which will come into effect on September 13.

A number of other restrictions will also ease from next week, with rules around funerals, single bubbles and real estate to change from Monday.

• Those who live outside of the LGAs of concern will be allowed to have outdoor gatherings of up to five people, including children, so long as all adults are fully vaccinated. The gathering must occur within their LGA for within 5km from home.

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• For those who live in the LGAs of concern, households with all adults vaccinated will be able to gather outdoors for recreation, including picnics, within the existing rules. This means for one hour only, outside curfew hours and within 5km of home. This is in addition to the one hour allowed for exercise.

“We know people coming together is what people miss the most. From the various options we looked at, that was the option that met the mental health needs and wellbeing of our community, but also provided the lowest-risk setting,” Ms Berejiklian said.

She then asked residents and businesses to prepare for the community to open up even further in the coming months.

“NSW is calling on industry and citizens to get ready for when we are 70 per cent double-vaccinated. That’s when things will start to open,” she said.

“The NSW Government will start conversations with industry, but we do say that the condition of you participating in what will be reopening is on you being vaccinated. Because when you start opening at 70 per cent, there are certain activities only vaccinated people can do.”

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