One of the experts behind the Victorian government’s stage four restrictions says he “can’t guarantee” the crippling lockdown will prevent a third wave.
One of the experts behind the Victorian government’s stage four restrictions says he “can’t guarantee” the crippling lockdown will prevent a third wave.

There's no 'guarantee’ there won’t be another virus wave

One of the experts behind the Victorian government's stage four restrictions says he "can't guarantee" the crippling lockdown will prevent a third wave of the coronavirus.

University of Melbourne infectious diseases expert Professor Tony Blakely is a key author of the modelling behind Premier Daniel Andrews' road map that puts a target for easing restrictions at five cases per day for two weeks.

Premier Andrews used that modelling to justify further extending the unprecedented lockdown, which was originally scheduled to end on September 13.

ABC 7.30 host Leigh Sales asked Prof Blakely on Thursday night how Victorians could be sure "they won't have gone through all of this and complied and done the right thing and then be let down again at the government end", referring to the contact tracing and hotel quarantine failures largely blamed for the second wave.

"These are tough questions," Prof Blakely said.

"We simply can't guarantee there won't be another third wave because this virus is stochastic, it is chance. It just takes one person getting in and giving it to a superspreader, going to a wedding even if there's only 50 people and off it goes. So there is that chance element."

Prof Blakely said NSW and Queensland were "thanking their lucky stars at the moment that they haven't seen an outbreak yet".

"There is stochasticity and chance involved here. I'm hoping that Victoria has good luck now and we get through to Christmas in good shape with good action and good policy to maximise the good luck."

Melbourne University infectious diseases expert Professor Tony Blakely.
Melbourne University infectious diseases expert Professor Tony Blakely.

 

On Friday, Victoria recorded 43 new COVID-19 cases and nine deaths, bringing the state's death toll to 710.

Sales asked Prof Blakely why Victoria's "big picture philosophy" was to get cases to a low number before reopening, unlike most other major nations which had decided they needed to get their societies functioning and "manage however many cases we get".

"That is the approach because we've struggled to keep the caseload under control without getting it down and we're figuring that we need to bring it down before we open up," Prof Blakely said.

"So we're trying to emulate, if you like, tight suppression done by South Korea, what's happened well in NSW, but we have to get those numbers down. I think we could probably get them down, not quite as far as in the road map, before we go from stage three to stage two which is the major transition."

Prof Blakely was then asked what would happen if it came to October 26 and Victoria was stubbornly stuck at around 15 cases per day but could not hit the magic number of five.

"Would the population stay locked up indefinitely?" Sales said.

Prof Blakely replied, "I can't answer that. I'm not the Premier, I'm not the chief health officer," but suggested he would approach the situation with flexibility and "be confident in your contact tracing and confident in your ability to squash down outbreaks and deal with them and move forward".

"So I think we can change those things a bit and there are some policies that we can probably implement to help make that transition a bit sooner than October 26," he said.

Prof Blakely has since told the Herald Sun the five cases per day target was "too stringent" and "is not the University of Melbourne view".

He said he would have settled on an average of 10 cases per day. "That's their call, it's not the one I would have made, but that's their decision," he said.

frank.chung@news.com.au

Originally published as 'Can't guarantee' there won't be third wave



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