Australia may be trapped in the coronavirus lock until early 2021, as harsh social distance measures will result in far fewer people being immune to the deadly bug, experts warned.
Since the country took swift action to stop the spread of COVID-19, which killed nearly 90,000 people worldwide, infection rates in Australia have been relatively low with 6,109 cases and 51 deaths so far.
But this could prove to be a double-edged sword, with any easing of the lock restrictions potentially creating a huge spike in cases, scientists predicted.
In countries like America, where 434,000 people are infected, the blockage could end in a few months.
This is because huge parts of the community are infected and have either died or recovered, making them immune.
Australia has significantly fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19 than other countries
Restrictions that have seen the shutdown of parks, beaches, public barbecues (pictured April 7 in Mollymook), and restaurants may continue for months
The daily infection rate in Australia has dropped significantly, but the goal of smoothing the curve is not to prevent people from getting COVID-19 – but to ensure that it contracts gradually, experts say
But in Australia, not enough people will be exposed to the virus, which means it can still kill the elderly and those with medical conditions such as asthma.
HOW DOES IMMUNITY TO COVID-19 WORK?
Scientists have not yet figured out how immunity to the new strain of the coronavirus works.
But if they are similar to other coronaviruses, once recovered they can be immune for about 18 months to two years.
This means that a recovered patient can go outside again.
But if someone has health problems or is older, they are still vulnerable until a vaccine is produced.
The situation has the potential to create a dangerous new social stratification in Australia, with healthy people allowed to go outside and the elderly trapped in their homes until a vaccine is produced.
Paul Komesaroff, professor of medicine at Monash University, told Daily Mail Australia that the federal government’s “responsible” approach to the pandemic may be a mixed blessing.
“In the UK and the United States, where they have missed the opportunity to impose restrictions early because of the irresponsibility of political leaders, huge numbers of people are affected by the disease,” he explained.
“But it does mean the peak is very, very sharp, and it may well be that the timeline is shorter for them than it is for us. Ironic.’
Professor Komesaroff, a leading epidemic response specialist, said the strategy means that Australia is likely to avoid the “terrible suffering” abroad and be able to provide appropriate treatment to all patients in the hospital.
On Thursday, obstacles are thrown on the Spit on the Gold Coast. The Council closed some of the city’s beaches after thousands of people ignored social distance rules
Australia has registered 6,109 cases of coronavirus so far, with 51 deaths, much lower than most other G20 members – but it could be a double-edged sword
Medical staff will see tests for COVID-19 at Bondi Beach drive-through test center in Sydney on April 7 (photo) as infection rate continues to drop
But this slow and steady process can continue for quite some time, even longer than the six months predicted by the government.
“It does mean that they will experience a large number of deaths, terrible suffering and tragedy,” said Professor Komesaroff of those other countries.
“Meanwhile, we may be in a position to flatten the curve and ration the number of people going to hospital.
“In the best possible scenario, we have enough hospital beds to treat everyone who needs it.
“We will have a relatively small number of deaths, which is the situation we currently have so that we will be able to deal with anyone who needs it.
Brisbane’s Catholic Archbishop, Mark Coleridge, holds a Thursday Holy Mass broadcast online
Obstacles will be seen on Surfers Paradise Beach on the Gold Coast on Wednesday (photo), with experts predicting that such restrictions could apply for many months
A deserted Surfers Paradise beach on the Gold Coast can be seen Wednesday (pictured) after state governments trapped people who went out for anything but essential activities
“But that can last for many, many months. Even if we have peaked and the numbers are falling, most of the community – because of the strategy followed – will not gain immunity. ‘
Another example is China, where the virus originated in a market in the city of Wuhan, where 81,000 cases and 3,335 died.
Despite the massive loss of life, restrictions have been lifted in as little as two months in some areas.
Now that a vaccine is likely to have a long way to go and mass immunity has not yet been reached, restrictions may be lifted in part for Australians who are healthy and immune.
Beaches, including Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast (pictured Wednesday), are likely to remain closed
WHY DOES THE LOCKDOWN STILL CONTINUE?
Although daily infection rates have declined in Australia, there is a high risk that it could rise again.
This is because a relatively small number of people have become infected, so fewer people are immune than in other countries.
Scientists predict that if people resume their daily lives on the masses, it could lead to thousands of diseases.
This would put the health system under pressure.
But this would cause vulnerable and older people to get trapped in their homes, while young and healthy people can get back to normal.
While there is not yet an approved test to see who is immune to the virus, they will “be immediately available,” experts said.
Humans become immune from exposure to COVID-19, but then develop the antibodies to fight and restore it.
“They are serological antibody tests, which test whether people have been exposed to the disease and have developed antibodies against it, and are therefore presumably immune,” explains Professor Komesaroff.
‘Once we have access to these tests, and they are in a high state of development and even used in a limited way in the UK and elsewhere, it will allow us to identify people who are safe to return to the community and to their resume normal activities.
Shoppers are seen socially aloof as they line up to step into a Coles supermarket in Firle, Adelaide on April 6
In Spain, citizens suffer much more infection rates, but this could mean ending the country’s closure earlier
“And that will clearly be important to get the economy going again and provide good and services to those who need it.”
While this situation may lead to restrictions being gradually lifted, it can also mean creating a two-level society – where the immune system can do what it wants.
“What is very likely is that certain people who are the most isolated and the most vulnerable still need to remain isolated,” he added.
“And that can be the elderly, and that can cause social problems.
“If there are certain people who have been young and have contracted and recovered from the disease and are able to do their jobs, it may still be that certain people feel the need to remain locked up in some form for an indefinite period of time.
Older Australians may get stuck in their homes, while young and healthy people may return to normal, experts warned (pictured, a mural in Melbourne on April 6)
A look at numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths around the world
“So that’s a complicating factor to consider.”
The herd’s immunity is naturally produced overtime, the expert explained, and is not a good public health strategy.
It was suggested by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but the country now has a huge number of infections – with 938 killed on Wednesday alone.
Australian officials have now adopted a “very responsible” strategy, which is likely to keep the mortality rate low but keep the virus rummaging in the community for months.
On March 28, there were 460 new cases reported, on Thursday it was only 96.
Flattening the curve, which we do as effectively in Australia as anyone else has achieved, is not intended to prevent people from getting the disease – because you can’t – but rather to reduce the pressure on health services so that we can who need help, ”he said.
And the rapid increase in the number of deaths in Italy, Spain and France and elsewhere is largely due to the overwhelming health services.
“So what we’re trying to do is reduce the new cases to a relatively small ray so we can handle them.
The negative of that is that the timeline is being pushed out.
Taped tables and chairs can be seen in a closed cafe in Sydney on March 24 (pictured) after a nationwide closure of licensed cafes, restaurants and locations
A police officer talks to a driver at a checkpoint on the Queensland-New South Wales border in Coolangatta on the Gold Coast on April 3 (photo)
“If the disease is still present in the community, there is a risk of the epidemic being reactivated.”
This leads to a very possible conclusion, namely that although the restrictions could be lifted, they would only be temporary.
If the number of cases increased to some extent, the lockdown would be bought back so that people can be treated.
“So in that setting, one of the credible strategies to consider is whether we alleviate the restrictions to some degree,” he added.
“And then let the number of cases increase to some extent, then treat them and narrow the restrictions again until we treat the number of people who have become ill.”
Australians are fined $ 1,000 for what are normally harmless acts. Police are being collected on April 2 at Surfers Paradise Beach on the Gold Coast
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced 96 new cases of the disease on Thursday, the lowest rate of infection since strict social distance measures were introduced.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,105
New South Wales: 2773
South Australia: 421
Western Australia: 495
Australian Capital Territory: 100
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,109
“There is good news for Australia this weekend, but there is a warning that we can either capture the gains or lose those gains,” he told reporters in Canberra.
He added that the national cabinet was investigating how to ease restrictions in “slow, prudent steps,” but told Australians not to stay ahead of themselves.
“This Easter is the time when an Australian can help save a life with his decisions, or accidentally risk a life,” he said.
“We are in this period of consolidation, of suppression of the virus, and we are seeing those results, and the government is very unanimous about this.”
There are 260 in the hospital, 82 in the intensive care unit and 35 on the ventilators, but all those numbers are lower than at their peak.
Hunt said Australians should stay at home all weekend to protect lives and give the nation a way to fight the pandemic.
Police officers stop cars on April 3 at a checkpoint on the border of Queensland and New South Wales in the Gold Coast
An information notice detailing the closing of golf courses in Victoria can be seen in Melbourne on Friday (pictured) prior to Easter weekend
NEW COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS EXPLAINED
Only two people are allowed to gather in public areas and other gathering areas: Households – no matter how big – can still go outside together, but individual people can only speak to one other person. The two person limit does not apply to workplaces, schools or households.
Moratorium on disposals from rental properties for the next six months: Scott Morrison said that State and Territories will move to ban landlords from evicting tenants who struggle to pay rent. Mr. Morrison urged landlords to work with their tenants and banks to find immediate solutions.
Outdoor playgrounds, skate parks and gyms are closed from Monday: Boot camps are reduced to one-on-one outdoor personal training.
Australians insisted on shopping only for the essentials and nothing more: Mr. Morrison reminded people that it’s not time to browse or catch up with friends. “When you go shopping, you just have to go for the things you need and do it and go home,” he said.
People over 70 or with chronic illnesses are discouraged from leaving their homes: Mr. Morrison said that the elderly should only go outside for doctor’s appointments or medical reasons. He said vulnerable groups who need help with shopping should have access to “support through their community or others.”
WHAT CAN I LEAVE MY HOUSE FOR?
Buy essentials: Scott Morrison said shopping should only be done and not turned into makeshift gatherings.
Going to work, if you cannot work at home: Australians who can work from home are strongly advised to do so. Those who cannot do this must take social distance measures when they are at work.
Practice: People who train still have to follow the two person limit. All boot camps of 10 people or less are effectively prohibited.
Attending personal medical appointments or for compassionate reasons: Older people in particular should only go outside for doctor’s appointments or medical reasons.
CAN I VISIT FAMILY MEMBERS?
Yes, but social distance measures still need to be respected.
A family split between two houses can meet privately so people can visit their partner, siblings or parents.
People who live can only invite one friend, while households of two or more cannot receive visitors.
WHAT ABOUT HOUSEHOLDS WITH MORE THAN TWO PEOPLE?
Households – no matter how big – can still go outside together, but individual people can only speak to one other person.
If four people live in a house together, all four of them can walk their dog.
The two person limit does not apply to workplaces, schools or households.
CAN OLD PEOPLE ENTER THE PUBLIC?
The elderly may go outside for the same reasons as the young, but Scott Morrison has urged people over 70 to isolate themselves unless they go to a medical appointment.
“This doesn’t mean they can’t go out,” Morrison said on Sunday.
“They can go outside and be accompanied by a supporter to get fresh air and recreation, but they should limit contact with others as much as possible.”
CAN I GO TO A MARRIAGE OR FUNERAL?
Last week’s rules regarding weddings and funerals have not changed.
Funerals are still limited to 10 people and weddings to five – including the officer and the bride and groom.
WHEN DO THE NEW MEASURES WORK?
The two-person rule starts on Monday, while playgrounds, outdoor gyms, and skate parks are closed at noon.