Epidemiologists are optimistic that Victoria’s public health teams are in a better position to fight the new coronavirus outbreak than they were during the state’s devastating second wave that began in June 2000.
Melbourne University math epidemiologist James McCaw also said the Victorians themselves are ready to address the outbreak head on.
Michael Glen from Cheltenham with his boys Nate (6) and Rocky (4) plays a car chase while waiting for a COVID test in Parkdale. Photo credit: Penny Stephens
“The Victorian public is also better prepared. Anecdotally, I can see that people’s mask use has already changed, ”said Professor McCaw, also a member of Australia’s Health Principal Protection Committee, which advises the national cabinet. “The Victorians know how to respond, and I think we will. ”
More than 70 people were in isolation after eight new coronavirus cases were registered on Wednesday and Thursday. All eight went to a likely broadcast event at the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant in Black Rock on Jan.. December where a person had dinner after returning from NSW.
Catherine Bennett, Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, said it was excellent news that all of these eight cases could be traced back to one source.
« The other good sign is how quickly our public health team got in touch with the restaurant, » she said.
The risk now was that there had been some other people who had been exposed to the virus at the time or since then. « And we haven’t found out all of the exposure sites. « .
Professor Bennett said the persecution that is being carried out is « completely different » than it was six months ago.
« It’s amazing to have the information you’ve gathered in such a short amount of time, » she said. “You are already going to the contacts of the contacts, that’s exactly what we want to see. ”
Smile Buffalo Thai Cuisine Restaurant on Beach Road in Black Rock, which was the location of a COVID infected restaurant. Photo credit: Penny Stephens
Professor Bennett also said it was important that both the Thai restaurant and a church where contacts of the originally infected person had attended keep good records of who visited them. « It means the health department can actively follow these contacts, » she said.
Professor Bennett also advocated swift action by the Victorian government to close the border with NSW. “The public health response is exactly what you would like it to be at this stage, and the additional restrictions are that we support these efforts by keeping [the outbreak] as small as possible while they get over it. ”
Professor McCaw said it was a good thing that all cases appeared to be related to the Thai restaurant because it was « a single event that is much easier to handle than if there were separate chains of broadcasts ». .
« We’re going to find out if there are any more cases from this restaurant and that puts us on high alert for at least two weeks, » he said. “People have to be incredibly vigilant. ”
The team led by Professor McCaw at Melbourne University has analyzed the NSW spread of cases. The state had 136 new cases in the past week.
He said that while the people of Sydney were still mingling enough for the coronavirus to spread, the « excellent public health response » kept it suppressed and given an opportunity to prevent it from getting out of hand.
This was very different from Victoria in June and July, when the virus spread widely in the community. It didn’t start to slow down until a heavy lockdown was put in place.
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Clay Lucas is a senior reporter for The Age. Clay has been with The Age since 2005 and has covered urban affairs, transportation, government, local government and labor relations for The Age and Sunday Age.
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