News Coronavirus questions answered: Should we be in a lockdown? When will this end?
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Coronavirus questions answered: Should we be in a lockdown? When will this end?

Your coronavirus questions answered.
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As part of our responsibility to get you the information you need to know when you need it, we’ve been taking your coronavirus questions to the experts.

Last week, they answered questions about how the virus works, how long this will all last, and how to do social distancing properly. 

But some things are secret from us, and that means they are secret from you.

The Australian government won’t tell us how many phases of lockdown there are – or whats happens in stage three, which is expected to be rolled out in Victoria and New South Wales soon.

The Australian government won’t share with us their modelling of how many us they’re expecting to catch COVID-19, or how many us will die.

They won’t tell us what modelling they’re using to monitor how many ICU beds will be full and at what point.

In lieu of this, we put some of your questions to Adjunct Professor Bill Bowtell from the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity.

He was a key architect of the Australian government’s successful response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Over to him.

Should we all just go into full lockdown?

We should follow New Zealand and move to a full close down – this has been advocated by many senior Australian and world experts.

If we just locked down for two weeks would it be over? Then we could test those that need it and isolate them.

Whatever happens, I doubt that this will be over at the end of two weeks. That must depend on how effective a shut down is in practice and how much it impedes transmission of the virus.

Some countries that are further along the trajectory than Australia have seen a levelling off of new cases but not a sharp falling away.

This is a new virus for which there is no immunity, vaccine or cure.

No-one, least of all me, can predict how its course will run in Australia.

Some other countries, such as Vietnam, announce flight numbers once they can link a confirmed coronavirus patient to them. Why isn’t the government announcing the flight numbers of planes thatwere carrying people who then became ill? 

They don’t but they should.

There has been almost no level of effective surveillance at Australian airports since the virus emerged at the end of last year.

Why steps like those taken in Singapore, Hong Kong and elsewhere were not taken here is extremely puzzling, to say the least.

Is social distancing working?

How it is working today becomes apparent over two weeks or so in the new caseloads.

Of course, it must be helping to impede the spread of the virus but greater distancing would help with better outcomes into the next two weeks or so.

Is the government choosing money over lives?

The government has made it very clear that it will follow policies that in its view should accept the spread of the virus as a trade-off for maintaining economic activity.

But this is not borne out by the immense scale of economic collapse under present policy settings.

It would have been better to act more drastically sooner rather than step by step and to somehow see this as a binary choice between the economy and public health.

“Economy” is just another word for people.

Why can’t I just go someone where and get tested?

In theory, Australia has opted not to test asymptomatic people but to test those with symptoms.

This varies in practice from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from hospital to hospital. The more tests conducted, the better the data and the better we can understand what’s happening.

Other countries have tested far more than Australia but this seems to be changing as more tests are sourced for use in Australia.

If we did absolutely nothing and let the virus spread what would be the outcome?

The situation in December/January in Wuhan and then in Italy, Spain and New York demonstrates pretty clearly what happens when the virus spreads totally or almost unchecked.

How can a beach in the open air, with a few hundred people on it, be closed as unsafe when commuter trains carry 1500 or more in peak hour, crammed like sardines be OK to continue?

All of these guidelines and structures make no logical sense.

The virus infects on an equal-opportunity basis, regardless of these distinctions.

The closer you are to an infected person or surface, the greater the risk.

The more distant you are, or the less contact you have with possibly infected surfaces, the less the risk.

Will they adjust their modelling when it becomes clear the hospitalisation and ICU impact is nowhere near what they’ve forecast?

The modelling undertaken by the government has been kept secret so we do not know their assumptions and projections.

How long will the pandemic last?

No one can know the answer to this question. While viruses emerge from nature, their effects on us are entirely a reflection of the decisions made by governments and the people.

Some countries and cities handle these things very well and others in a more chaotic and less organised way. Australia falls somewhere in the middle now, when we should have been able to organise a response more like Singapore and Taiwan.

In time this will pass, but the economic and social impacts will change the world and Australia in profound ways.

Why are daycare centres still open?

These are decisions taken for political reasons, so you would have to ask the governments concerned.

None of the advice or reasoning is made public.

I live in a block of units, where two separate neighbours had visitors and friends over on the weekend. I’m in a highly vulnerable group and am wanting to know how to make young people follow the protocols?

Clearly, some people have not got the message which, given the lack of any official information or mobilisation until very recently, is completely understandable.

As things stand today, the guidelines allow gatherings of this size.

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