Australia is on the verge of a second wave if Melbourne does not get its cluster outbreak under control, public health officials have warned.
On Saturday Victoria’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer announced that she was “very concerned’ about the 41 new cases that were confirmed in the state overnight.
The outbreak in suburban Melbourne has huge potential to turn into a second wave which could sweep across the nation, warned professor of medicine at Monash University Professor Paul Komesaroff.
“This has major potential to be a second wave,” he told The New Daily.
It’s a serious risk. If this does take off in Victoria as people fear, there’s a high likelihood it will spread to the rest of the country.”
That doesn’t mean we should be closing state borders, though.
“There’s a discussion about whether New South Wales is at risk from people coming over the border, but it’s not as simple as that,” Professor Komesaroff explained.
“The outbreaks in Victoria are restricted to Melbourne, and most of the country areas are completely free of it.
Testing has become a heated issue globally, with United States President Donald Trump recently telling a rally in Oklahoma that he ordered a slowdown of tests to drop the country’s case rate.
As Victoria’s case numbers continue to rise, the state has launched a testing blitz focused on 10 suburbs with high community transmission – Keilor Downs, Broadmeadows, Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir and Pakenham.
More than 736,000 total tests had been done as of Friday.
Widespread testing is essential to see how far the cluster has spread, said Australian National University Professor Quentin Grafton.
“Yes, we are doing more testing in Victoria, knocking on people’s doors, but Australia has one of the best testing regimes in the world. It’s not like we were going from a low point, we’re going from a high point,” he said.
The rate of infection will always be greater than confirmed cases. The numbers are still small in comparison to the rest of the world, but they are worrying.
“It wouldn’t take long for it to get out of control.”
The key to stopping the coronavirus before it gets out of control is for everyone to be be “vigilant” in observing social distancing and hygiene measures, said Professor Emeritus Gerry FitzGerald, a public health expert at the Queensland University of Technology.
“It remains a serious illness, a serious concern and we need to be vigilant,” he said.
“I, like everyone else, was upset to hear some of the people being interviewed in Victoria saying, ‘I’m going to live my life,’ well that’s pretty self-centred.”
Despite Australia’s world-leading response to the coronavirus, the “issue remains that there are 24.5 million of us who are vulnerable and if it breaks out we can expect the fatality rate that other countries have seen”, Professor FitzGerald said.
“If we had the [infection] rate of New York City, we would have 60,000 dead,” he said.
“People in Victoria need to be hyper-vigilant and increase social distancing to try and stop the transmission of the disease.
“If it gets out and we get into a second wave, we’re in trouble.”