Disease expert calls on Covid ‘doomsday’ scenario

A prediction that more than 3,000 Australians with Covid-19 will be admitted to intensive care even with 70 percent of adults vaccinated has been dismissed as a ‘doomsday scenario’ by a leading disease expert during an interview with the ABC.

Modeling from the Doherty Institute released Tuesday showed that a six-month outbreak of the Delta strain would be deadly 1,984 Australians if 70 percent of adults had been vaccinated and 1,281 if 80 percent received a double shot.

The same worst case predicts 393,515 infections and 14,130 hospitalizations, of which 3,084 are in an intensive care unit.

But these numbers would only be achieved if Australia had ‘minimal’ density restrictions and ‘partial’ Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine effectiveness, leading Professor Gail Matthews, head of infectious diseases at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital, to say she was not realistic. are .

Pictured: Australians line up to be stabbed in Homebush, Sydney on Tuesday, as the city registered a further 199 cases, with a further 239 on Wednesday.  At least 70 percent of adults should be stung to make lockdowns much less likely

Pictured: Australians line up to be stabbed in Homebush, Sydney on Tuesday, as the city registered a further 199 cases, with a further 239 on Wednesday. At least 70 percent of adults should be stung to make lockdowns much less likely

Modeling from the Doherty Institute (pictured) released Tuesday showed that if a Delta strain outbreak lasted for six months with only 'basic restrictions' - meaning only minimal density restrictions as in NSW in March 2021 and 'partial restrictions'. Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine Effectiveness - then 1,984 Australians would die if 70 percent of the population were vaccinated and 1,281 would die if 80 percent were completely stung

Modeling from the Doherty Institute (pictured) released Tuesday showed that if a Delta strain outbreak lasted for six months with only 'basic restrictions' - meaning only minimal density restrictions as in NSW in March 2021 and 'partial restrictions'. Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine Effectiveness - then 1,984 Australians would die if 70 percent of the population were vaccinated and 1,281 would die if 80 percent were completely stung

Modeling from the Doherty Institute (pictured) released Tuesday showed that if a Delta strain outbreak lasted for six months with only ‘basic restrictions’ – meaning only minimal density restrictions as in NSW in March 2021 and ‘partial restrictions’. Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine Effectiveness – then 1,984 Australians would die if 70 percent of the population were vaccinated and 1,281 would die if 80 percent were completely stung

“Well, I think that’s a worst-case scenario and I don’t think those things will happen,” Professor Matthews told Fran Kelly, the host of ABC’s RN Breakfast, on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we’re going to stop testing and tracing and impose other restrictions, so that’s a doomsday scenario.

“Models can look at all kinds of scenarios and I don’t think that’s plausible.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said the scenario would not happen as state governments would reintroduce restrictions regardless of vaccination coverage.

“I have no doubt that if such a scenario were to occur, additional measures would be taken to prevent those kinds of outcomes,” he said at a news conference.

“In the same way if we had a very aggressive strain of flu that was moving in a similar direction and had similar results, then of course governments would take steps.

‘But the chance of that happening with a vaccination coverage of 80 percent or the other figures you have there at 70 percent, is of course very different.’

Sydney residents (pictured in Double Bay on Wednesday morning) are in lockdown until at least the end of August

Sydney residents (pictured in Double Bay on Wednesday morning) are in lockdown until at least the end of August

Sydney residents (pictured in Double Bay on Wednesday morning) are in lockdown until at least the end of August

Australian Defense Force troops were pictured outside a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Wattle Grove, Sydney on Tuesday

Australian Defense Force troops were pictured outside a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Wattle Grove, Sydney on Tuesday

Australian Defense Force troops were pictured outside a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Wattle Grove, Sydney on Tuesday

The prime minister said an 80 percent vaccination rate would allow the country to treat Covid-19 like the flu and would only require restrictions to prevent too many deaths rather than stop infections.

The average number of flu deaths per year between 2016 and 2019 was 642.

“There will always be infectious diseases that lead to hospitalization and even death,” Morrison said.

“That’s something that unfortunately happens every day, that’s the world we live in, and I think Australians understand that.”

Professor Gail Matthews (pictured) also warned that Sydney would see more Covid hospitals in the coming days

Professor Gail Matthews (pictured) also warned that Sydney would see more Covid hospitals in the coming days

Professor Gail Matthews (pictured) also warned that Sydney would see more Covid hospitals in the coming days

The federal government has used the Doherty modeling to work out its four-phase reopening plan that will lift major lockdowns when 70 percent are vaccinated and open international borders when 80 percent are poked.

Even with high vaccination rates, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid are inevitable, said Professor Jodie McVernon, director of epidemiology at the Doherty Institute.

“The reality is that we cannot avoid Covid forever. This is the reality check, this [Delta strain] is twice as contagious as we started with,” she told RN Breakfast.

“So we have to be realistic in picturing the future for people and explaining that cell phones have changed our lives forever and so has Covid, certainly in the short term.”

dr. McVernon said keeping Australia cut off from the rest of the world in order to keep the virus out was not a realistic option.

“This isn’t something that will go away, we can’t hide and hope it passes,” she said.

“We need to have a mature approach to how we move forward as a society in a way that doesn’t require lockdowns and all this uncertainty. We will have to keep adapting.’

It comes as Sydney braces for a spike in Covid hospitalizations and deaths following the outbreak in the city on Wednesday to 4,063 cases.

Professor Matthews said St Vincent’s Hospital in eastern Sydney was bracing for more patients, even if the number of cases falls, due to a delay of up to two weeks between infection and hospitalization.

“We will see an increasing number of patients because we are still seeing the same number of cases and those cases will translate into more patients going to hospital because of the natural course of the infection,” she said.

“Even if we see the number of cases drop to zero next week, we expect many more patients. We know we have to plan for that.”

NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian has indicated that some restrictions could be eased when six million shots are distributed across the state, meaning 50 percent of adults will be fully vaccinated.

But the easing also depends on drastically reducing the number of cases.

According to Morrison’s four-stage reopening plan, a state or territory can move to remove the need for restrictions when the national vaccination rate reaches 70 percent and the rate in that state also reaches 70 percent.

The prime minister said he hopes this phase will be reached before the end of the year, but warned the timing “depends entirely on how the nation responds to this challenge we are setting ourselves.”

NSW Police patrol Bondi Beach in Sydney on Wednesday morning as the city remains on lockdown for another four weeks

NSW Police patrol Bondi Beach in Sydney on Wednesday morning as the city remains on lockdown for another four weeks

NSW Police patrol Bondi Beach in Sydney on Wednesday morning as the city remains on lockdown for another four weeks

This phase, known as phase B, will make lockdowns ‘less likely’ and will give doubly vaccinated people ‘special rules’ to give them more freedom than Aussies who refuse a shot.

A ‘small working group’ has been set up with the Northern Territory, Victoria and Tasmania to determine which restrictions do not apply to double-vaccinated.

The prime minister warned that some local phase B lockdowns may be necessary, but ‘broad metropolitan lockdowns’ will not be necessary.

The phase will increase the limit for vaccinated Australians coming from abroad and allow ‘reduced’ quarantine requirements, such as home quarantine, as well as restricted entry for students and economic visa holders.

Phase C begins when 80 percent of adults receive a double shot, allowing vaccinated Australians to travel abroad for any reason.

With safer countries like Singapore, travel bubbles are being set up to allow vaccinated travelers to fly in without quarantine.

Morrison said a country is considered safe if it has “the same kind of vaccination levels as Australia.” The UK has already fully vaccinated 71.4 percent of adults.

Phase C will lift all domestic restrictions on double-shot Aussies and abolish the limits on returning vaccinated Australians.

No vaccination coverage has been established for phase D, which will remove almost all rules except testing for unvaccinated arrivals and quarantine for arrivals from ‘high risk’ places.

The Prime Minister warned that the plan is based on the Delta variant and is ‘subject to change’ if a new, more contagious variant is introduced.

What are the four stages of opening?

A. Vaccinating, preparing and testing (from 14 July)

Arrival caps halved to 3,035 per week; early, severe and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available in apps like Apple Wallet

B. Post-vaccination phase (when 70 percent will be stung, expected by the end of this year)

Lockdowns ‘less likely but possible’; vaccinated people face reduced disabilities; limits for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger limit for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; limited entry for students and economic visa holders

C. Consolidation Phase (when 80 percent is pricked, time not announced)

Only ‘highly targeted’ lockdowns; lifting of all outbound travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers; no limits for vaccinated arrivals; increased limits for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles arise with countries like Singapore; booster shots rolled out

D. Final phase (percentage or time not disclosed)

Unlimited arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and unlimited arrivals for unvaccinated people with pre-departure and on-arrival testing

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