Coronavirus Update 7 April 2020
Playing with Numbers to Find a Plan
Remember those novels where you could choose your ending? Well the Doherty Institute has been studying pandemics for a few years, and produced a few key graphs today to explain – theoretically – some different possible endings for Australia’s COVID-19 story.
Like modelling clay, they modelled numbers into different pictures, like this:
- Using numbers from international scenarios, they started with “What if we did nothing?” That ended badly, with the demand for hypothetical hospitals being completely overwhelmed.
- Then they crunched some more numbers to see, “What if we just quarantined and isolated those who are infected?”. That was a much better picture, but still the theoretical hospitals were overwhelmed by demand.
- And finally they plugged in the numbers for checking, “What if we quarantined and isolated known cases, AND put in social distancing measures?” VOILA! The numbers that spat out proved that this was by far the best plan for maintaining control of the virus.
ScoMo reminded us that there is no clear path forward. As each country looks for their way forward, they may do different things, because there are no right answers. No-one has done this before. These theoretical numbers and hypothetical hospitals give us a basis to say that we’re doing the right thing for Australia.
Playing With Numbers to Predict the Future
Now that we have these modelling outcomes, the next step is to use the real numbers to predict and shape future scenarios. The problem is, our current data on 6000 Australians is not enough to make scientifically significant conclusions. In a few weeks we will have enough to do meaningful modelling. That will:
- give us an idea of when to dial up or dial down social distancing
- tailor the information to Australia’s focal outbreaks, like in NSW, rather than basing the outcomes on widespread distribution which was the international experience
- give us more information on the mechanisms of community transmissions
How Will Australia Transition back to Normal Life?
ScoMo and Prof Murphy (Chief Medical Officer) confirmed there are a few different ways to do this, but we don’t know enough yet, to tell.
- Wuhan took the option of eliminating the virus. However, this way the population doesn’t develop immunity, and borders have to be aggressively protected.
- ‘Herd immunity’ means allowing the virus to take its course through the community until enough people have immunity so that it is no longer a threat. This is not where Australia is heading. Suggested benchmark figures start at a requirement of 50% population immunity before avoiding risk of transmission, and no country in the world has yet reached that level.
- An option used in past influenza epidemics was to control and contain the virus until a vaccine was found. A vaccine would be ideal.
- At present, Australia’s strategy is suppress and control the virus until we have a clearer way forward.
The AHPPC will be presenting a range of scenarios to the National Cabinet, who will in turn need to consider their ability to run the country in each scenario. The duration of each scenario matters, as government support is currently for 6 months.
The Gift of Time
The measures in place are buying doctors, scientists and the government more time to plan our way out of the pandemic, calmly.
The flattening of the curve is allowing capacity to be built in our health systems. We have now tripled our ICU capacity and increased medical staffing by hundreds of thousands of workers. We’ve gained enough tests to test broadly, and established enough facilities for quarantining and isolation.
So how much time do we need?
It’s too early to tell, but Australia chose to take a longer term outlook, rather than plan for the next 3 months like many other countries have done. A timeframe was necessary to be able to plan support programs like JobKeeper, and to justify the unprecedented scale, scope and coverage of that plan. That has bought us six months’ certainty of lifelines for Australians, and hopefully enough time to map a way through and outof this pandemic.
ScoMo and the Chief Medical Officer’s message for Easter very clear:
Stay. At. Home.
Any gathering could undo the excellent progress Australia is making in combatting this virus. Keep doing what you’re doing, Australia – there’s still a journey ahead.
A Few Other Quick Updates
- In a concerning turn of events, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was moved to ICU today after 10 days of battling a COVID-19 infection. He has deputised his foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to drive forward the government’s ongoing response to the pandemic.
- Since clinical guidelines for medical staff managing COVID-19 are constantly being updated, the health minister has announced a national taskforce that will provide a ‘living guideline’. It will provide mobile-friendly medical information and advice that is constantly reviewed and updated in real time.
- Non-practicing health professionals are being invited back into the field in an initiative to assist the pandemic response. AHPRA, the national registration body for health professionals, is creating a sub-register for professionals who held registrations within the last 3 years, and are deemed competent and qualified to return to service.
- There have been 5,844 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, and sadly 44 have died.
- There are less than 100 people in ICU, and less than 40 on ventilators.
- 1080 people have recovered.
Hope Over Fear
Easter Bunny Eggs-emption
Western Australia’s borders were closed as of 5 April, but the state’s premier, Mark McGowan made an exemption for a special traveller this Easter. Mr McGowan aired an important announcement for WA kids confirming that he had issued the Easter Bunny with an Eggs-emption certificate, so that their easter eggs could be delivered this weekend.
You can watch his announcement here.
One World: Together At Home
Lady Gaga has raised $35 million by collaborating with WHO and Global Citizen to broadcast a global concert – at home. The live stream concert will celebrate stories from the world’s health care heroes, and include messages of gratitude and appreciation from those they’ve treated.
The event supports the UN’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which equips frontline healthcare workers around the world, with essential medical equipment. It also supports local charities that provide food, shelter, and healthcare to those that need it most. The fund has raised more than $100 million in less than two weeks for lifesaving work.
One World: Together At Home will be hosted by the likes of Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and some Sesame Street friends, and will feature these performers:
Alanis Morissette, Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Burna Boy, Chris Martin, David Beckham, Eddie Vedder, Elton John, FINNEAS, Idris and Sabrina Elba, J Balvin, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Kerry Washington, Lang Lang, Lizzo, Maluma, Paul McCartney, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Shah Rukh Khan and Stevie Wonder.
The event will be live streamed on 18 April 12am GMT (which makes it 9pm Brisbane time, I think…and sorry, not sure about the other states!) on a number of platforms including Amazon Prime Video, Apple, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yahoo, and YouTube, among others.
Your Tip for Today
Employers, team leaders, managers: What do you do if you suspect or confirm that a worker has COVID-19?
Safe Work Australia provides a handy infographic advising the following steps:
- Isolate the person from others
- Inform the national COVID-19 hotline – 1800 020 080
- Transport the person to their home or a medical facility
- Clean the area where the person was working
- Identify who at the workplace had contact with the infected person
- Clean the area where the close contact people were working
- Review risk management controls relating to COVID-19
What About You?
I’d love to hear your stories.
- What are you doing for a home-based Easter?
- Are you going to be watching One World: Together at Home?
I’m keen to see your comments below
Prime Minister’s Media Release – 7 April 2020
Aus Govt – Theoretical Modelling on How the Health System can Respond
Impact of COVID-19 – Theoretical modelling of how the health system can respond
New York Times – Boris Johnson moved to ICU
WHO and Global Citizen – One World Together
Global Citizen – Together at Home
AHPRA Returns Health Practitioners to the Temporary Pandemic Sub-Register
Department of Health stats
John Hopkins University Interactive COVID-19 Map
WA Govt – Border Closure
WA’s Easter Bunny Eggs-emption
Safe Work Australia – Suspected or Confirmed case of COVID-19 at work