Australia should “go hard” to quash the coronavirus with more lockdowns because the strategy benefits the economy in the long term, despite early financial pain, research suggests.
Modellers, economists and public health experts from the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne have crunched the numbers and given the tick to longer lockdowns.
“If we think we can do away with periods of movement restrictions when uncontrolled outbreaks occur, we need to think again,” University of Melbourne Professor Tom Kompas said.
“The key point here is not to think about the economic costs over a period of a couple of weeks, large as they are, but rather to consider the costs over a period of months if community transmission continues.”
The report comes as the Morrison government promises a four-phase strategy to help end lockdowns and open international borders which would require a percentage of Australians to get vaccinated.
Medical experts at the Doherty Institute are working out how many Australians would be required to get the jab before the country can return to some normality.
Just over 9 per cent of eligible Australians have received both jabs.
However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned Australia cannot eliminate coronavirus as states continue to battle lockdown-inducing outbreaks, including NSW, which is at a critical point.
“Ultimately, we can’t eliminate the virus,” he said.
“We have to learn to live with the virus.”
The report found imposing a certain number of social distancing days per lockdown reduced the total in lockdown over a 12-month period.
The costs to the economy were about $210 million for every lockdown day.
“Our results support strategies that go hard against COVID-19 infections and get us to zero community transmission,” lead author Professor Quentin Grafton said.
“This is especially the case now with this Delta variant and Australia’s currently low vaccination level.”
Prof Grafton said there needed to be enough financial support for the people who are most affected by lockdowns.
Sydney at critical point, fury at Dragons players
Sydneysiders have been warned they are at a critical point of lockdown, with authorities refusing to rule out an extension of stay-at-home orders amid a spread of infections among aged care residents.
NSW had 35 more local COVID-19 cases on Monday, including two residents of a Sydney nursing home where three other resident had already tested positive.
The outbreak has reached 312 people since emerging in Bondi in mid-June.
Meanwhile, a St George Illawarra board meeting on Tuesday could determine potential further punishments against 13 players who broke stay-at-home orders to party at forward Paul Vaughan’s barbecue on Saturday.
Boss Ryan Webb has slammed the arrogance of the Dragons’ dirty 13, refusing to rule out further sanctions beyond the 20 games in bans and big fines from the NRL.
The NRL came down hard on the 13 players, fining them a combined $305,000.
Vaughan’s regular NRL season is over after he was handed an eight-game ban and a $50,000 fine.
All other players involved have been issued with one-game suspensions and varying fines, with the bans to be served in the next month.
The punishment also took into account players’ histories and claims information was withheld from the NRL after it emerged only on Monday that Jack de Belin also attended the party.
Three people who went to a different illegal party in Waterloo in inner-Sydney were among Monday’s case figures. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard called the attendees “entitled”.
“I would say that those people who are thinking that the rules are somehow not for them, that they are more entitled than the rest of us, you actually have to listen because you may be the people who spread this and keep us in lockdown for a lot longer than the rest of the community would like,” Mr Hazzard said.
Qld’s outbreaks under control
Queensland health officials expect more locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in coming days, but remain confident the outbreaks are under control as the number of exposure sites in the south-east grows.
More shops from two major shopping centres in Brisbane were listed as exposure sites late on Monday after positive cases attended Indooroopilly Shopping Centre and Westfield Chermside.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk remained optimistic on Monday, highlighting the extensive work of contact tracing and the links to existing clusters.
She also took solace in less dangerous Alpha variant spreading in the community, as opposed to the highly contagious Delta strain.
WA to ease virus rules despite ship case
Western Australia is edging closer towards a return to pre-lockdown life despite concerns over the arrival of another coronavirus-infected ship.
Face masks are no longer required outdoors where physical distancing is possible and hospitality venues have returned to a two-square metre capacity and a limit of 150 patrons after restrictions were further eased for Perth and the Peel region overnight.
Major venues, including Optus Stadium and RAC Arena, can operate at 50 per cent capacity.
The restrictions are due to expire next Monday, when Perth and Peel are slated to return to pre-lockdown life with no limits on gatherings.
A cluster of locally acquired cases in Perth’s northern suburbs appears to have been contained. But the arrival of a bulk vessel carrying an infected crew member off the WA’s mid-west coast has caused fresh headaches for authorities.
The MV Emerald Indah was forced to dock in Geraldton, 420 kilometres north of Perth, after the man became ill and “deteriorated quickly”, with bad weather preventing a helicopter evacuation.
He was taken to Geraldton Hospital and tested positive to coronavirus on Monday before being airlifted to a hospital in Perth.
“While this is less than ideal, we want to reinforce there is no current health risk to the Geraldton community,” Premier Mark McGowan said.
With the man’s case set to be included in Tuesday’s official numbers, no local cases were detected in the last infections report from 5177 tests.