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Australia What stage three of COVID-19 shutdown could look like

04:14  27 march  2020
04:14  27 march  2020 Source:   9news.com.au

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What could phase three look like ? In Europe and Asia, as well as parts of the United States, countries have been forced into much stricter lockdowns than Australia with residents largely forced to contain themselves to the home. In the UK, for example, residents are only allowed to leave for grocery

Former public health minister Baroness Blackwood describes what the next stage of delaying the virus could look like . COVID - 19 patients could show 'loss of smell'.

Australia's campaign to "flatten the curve" of the coronavirus pandemic is set to be stepped up as more and more people test positive across the nation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced stage two of the government's coronavrus shutdown measures earlier this week, but there is growing pressure to move to a stricter lockdown.

So what would a stage three shutdown look like for Australia?

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Head of biosecurity at the Kirby Institute and UNSW researcher Professor Raina MacIntyre said by not implementing a more complete lockdown "we're not only prolonging the pandemic, we're allowing it to get bigger and bigger".

"If we go to the maximum level of interventions, that means that schools will close. Everything closes down except essential workers which would be people like health care workers, police, emergency services, electricity power grid people, and everyone just has to stay home," Prof. MacIntyre told Nine.com.au.

"In countries like Italy and Spain, during the complete lockdowns people were still allowed to go to the supermarket to get food, or the pharmacy to get medicines, so that would be the kind of scenario.

"At the moment we've been told that every worker is essential [if they are permitted to go to work] and therefore people can go to work still and our schools are open, so we're not in a proper lockdown."

The Federal Government and Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy have insisted that schools can and should remain open while they still can.

However, some states have decided to make their own call, and instead move schools to online learning, pupil-free set-ups, or adopt early holidays.

Closed businesses are seen around the usually busy Darling Harbour precinct, in Sydney, Thursday, March 26, 2020. A shutdown of non-essential services is in effect Australia wide in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease. © AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts Closed businesses are seen around the usually busy Darling Harbour precinct, in Sydney, Thursday, March 26, 2020. A shutdown of non-essential services is in effect Australia wide in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease. Prof. MacIntyre said no progress in flattening the curve can be made unless this particular area is addressed immediately.

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"We've seen modelling from the University of Sydney that has suggested that 80 percent of people need to be staying put inside for the curve to be flattened, otherwise the curve is just going to keep getting bigger," she said.

"And almost 20 percent of our population are school-aged and pre-school aged children, so if you're not closing schools and childcare, it's pretty much impossible to achieve that.

"We need to reconcile the objectives which is to flatten the curve and get 80 percent of people not moving around and that will require schools and child care centres to close, and complete lockdown."

The government has also leaned on data on COVID-19 which has suggested that children are less susceptible to the effects of the virus, however, Prof. MacIntyre disagreed that this was the case.

"Some people are saying children don't get it, it's very mild, it doesn't matter, but in actual fact, children don't exist in a bubble," she said.

"They live with their parents, they transmit to other people, so firstly if you're allowing transmission in children and young people then that transmission is going to affect everybody in society.

"The second point is that it's not always mild for children. We've seen a range of studies come out in the last couple of weeks that have shown children can actually get very severe disease and children can even die of COVID-19.

"We've also seen school teachers dying of COVID-19 - there was a case in the US of a school principal who died.

"So there are consequences to keeping schools open in a pandemic. The World Health Organisation has guidelines for pandemics which says that in this kind of situation schools should be closed so I think we need to consider all of that."

Prof. MacIntyre warned that failure to take more extreme measures in eradicating coronavirus in Australia will only make it harder to promptly contain, and could lead to the situation getting out of control like in Europe and USA.

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"I think the later you leave it, the more difficult it's going to be to reduce the epidemic," she said.

"If you wait until it's really bad and the ICU beds are full and the hospitals are straining at the seams - which is essentially what's happened in Europe.

"In those countries, there was quite a bit of denial that there was any problem and when it started really hitting the health system then they were forced to do the lockdowns reactively, so that looks like the way we're going, where we'll just do it reactively when things get really bad.

"But then you're putting yourself in a much more difficult position with a lot more cases to deal with and a lot more longer period to recovery."

Dire shortage of medical supplies

Another recent study by Macquarie University revealed today that Australian hospitals do not currently have the capacity to accommodate "possible demand" for ICU beds to care for COVID-19 patients, which they concluded will mean "the future mortality rate may be much higher than expected".

In addition to this, there is the issue of a shortage of protective medical equipment.

"Currently, the health system is coping because we haven't run out of ICU beds or ventilators. But we've seen that happen in Europe, in Spain, and Italy and in New York in the US," Prof. MacIntyre said.

"We do have a shortage of personal protective equipment, things like masks. We had a couple of million masks in the national stockpile when the bushfires hit last year and a lot of those were used for the bushfires.

"I don't believe the stockpile was replenished but that number of masks is not enough for a pandemic anyway.

"A lot of remaining masks were sent to GPs around Australia, so there's very little left for the hospitals."

That shortage of masks in Australia has led to alarming reports from hospitals.

According to Prof. MacIntyre, doctors in hospitals are being told that unless they work in emergency or ICU, that they cannot get a mask.

"So a doctor on one of the other wards would have to treat a patient who is coughing in their face without a mask, in some cases. I've heard that this is happening already," she said.

"So there is a shortage of masks and personal protective equipment, which is another argument for going hard and going now with the social distancing lockdowns so that we can bring the size of it down so we're not putting our health workers in danger when we haven't supplied them with adequate personal protective equipment."

How is coronavirus transmitted?

The human coronavirus is only spread from someone infected with COVID-19 to another. This occurs through close contact with an infected person through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands or surfaces.

What are the symptoms of someone infected with coronavirus?

Coronavirus patients may experience flu like symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, or shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.

What is the difference between COVID-19 and the flu?

The symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are very similar, as they both can cause fever and respiratory issues.

Both infections are also transmitted the same way, via coughing or sneezing, or by contact with hands, surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus.

The speed of transmission and the severity of the infection are the key differences between COVID-19 and the flu.

The time from infection to the appearance of symptoms is typically shorter with the flu. However, there are higher proportions of severe and critical COVID-19 infections.

How can I protect myself and my family?

The World Health Organisation and NSW Health both recommend basic hygiene practices as the best way to protect yourself from coronavirus.

Good hygiene includes:

  • Clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser;
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or your elbow;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms;
  • Apply safe food practices; and
  • Stay home if you are sick.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing involved minimising contact with people and maintaining a distance of over one metre between you and others.

When practicing social distancing, you should avoid public transport, limit non-essential travel, work from home and skip large gatherings.

It is okay to go outdoors. However, when you do leave home, avoid touching your face and frequently wash your hands.

If I'm young and healthy, do I still have to practice social distancing?

Yes. While older people are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, young people are not immune. People that show mild or no symptoms may still pass the virus to others, particularly in the early stages of the infection, before many patients realise that they are sick.

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Virgin Australia grounds international fleet amid coronavirus pandemic .
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