It’s the question millions of Victorians want desperately answered: When will we find out if the lockdown is working?
As Melburnians enter their fifth day of Stage 4 restrictions and regional Victorians face another day of Stage 3, an anxious wait is under way to see if the massive damage to state’s economy has been worth it.
In roughly two weeks’ time, we’ll know.
That’s when the state’s daily coronavirus cases should start to drop, epidemiologists say.
Professor Ivo Mueller, epidemiologist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), said we should see a decline in cases “anywhere between seven and 14 days”.
“We know that from Australia and overseas – if implemented properly – these measures will work and the numbers will come down,” Professor Mueller told The New Daily.
“People just need to be patient. We need to make sure people don’t panic at a week and think it’s not working because those numbers haven’t dropped.
“It will take those first 10 days, or maybe two weeks, before they really start dropping significantly.”
The real test
If Victoria’s coronavirus cases don’t start to decline in the week starting August 16, we’ll know too many people have been ignoring the rules according to Dr Abrar Chughtai, an epidemiologist and lecturer at the University of New South Wales.
“Given the models are based on the understanding that people will comply, then yes we can start to see cases drop in about two or three weeks’ time,” he said.
“If people are not complying, then maybe it will be slightly delayed.”
However, Dr Chughtai also said rule breakers weren’t solely responsible for the state’s cases.
“I think Melbourne is in a slightly unfortunate situation due to hotel quarantine and aged-care issues, as well as large family clusters,” he said.
Don’t be fooled by the numbers
It’s easy to feel deflated by Victoria’s daily new coronavirus cases, which continue to average about 500 per day.
But those numbers don’t tell us much about how well the state is progressing.
“People should not read too much into the day-to-day fluctuations,” Professor Mueller said.
“The fact the numbers go up and down every day by quite a lot, that is due to the fact we have these localised outbreaks.”
He added the daily case numbers were not a tally of the cases of the day, but rather the accumulation of the people who presented for testing several days earlier.
“It takes between four to seven days from when people get infected by the virus until they feel sick,” Professor Mueller said.
“So that means the cases that are being announced each day relate to the testing three or four days ago of people who were infected about four to seven days before.
“It will take roughly 10 days before you really see that drop.”
His advice for Victorians?
“Be patient,” he said.
“People want to see if their efforts are worth it – and it will be worth it – but we just have to be a bit patient before we see the effects.”