New South Wales’ COVID-19 case numbers may have plateaued and could start dropping dramatically, according to one of Australia’s top epidemiologists.
Victoria is also believed to have hit a turning point, but its lockdown may stretch beyond the current five days.
Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an infectious diseases expert at the University of NSW and member of the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 response team, said her calculations show Sydney’s case numbers have hit a plateau.
“I am carefully optimistic that we might have peaked and plateaued, so we might start seeing a downward shift,” she told The New Daily.
On Saturday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced harsher lockdown restrictions, warning the state’s COVID case numbers were “stubborn”.
“It is not good enough for us to tread water, which is what we’re doing now,” Ms Berejiklian said.
People in the local government areas (LGAs) of Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool are now banned from leaving their council areas, and only critical retail such as supermarkets and pharmacies will be allowed to remain open.
Non-essential construction has also been paused until July 30.
‘It’s not the end of the lockdown’
Professor McLaws said although the state had hit a plateau, Greater Sydney’s new restrictions would be needed to bring those numbers down – a process that could take weeks.
“Don’t throw parties, don’t get excited,” Professor McLaws said. “We’ll still need restrictions,”
“It’s not the end of the lockdown, it’s what I would term the long goodbye. It will take a long time to get to zero cases in the community.”
Professor McLaws said it would take “a good three to four weeks to get to a safe level”.
“That’s just because of the proportion of cases who are not in full isolation,” she said.
Currently, 12 million Australians are in lockdown due to outbreaks of the Delta virus variant.
The rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne over who is handling the outbreak better has flared up on social media and at press conferences.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Chris Moy said it was time to stop blaming and start working together to stop the spread.
“We need to galvanise the community moving forward,” Dr Moy said.
“The anger, the politicisation, cynicism and just looking back all the time, is actually not going to help.”
Dr Moy said the AMA was happy with the introduction of stricter lockdown measures after repeatedly calling for them over the past week.
“I have a feeling the numbers are settling. Sydney just has to hold now,” he said.
When will Melbourne’s lockdown end?
On Saturday, Victorian health minister Martin Foley said the state had responded quickly with its snap lockdown because the Delta variant of the virus moves quicker than anything the health team had seen before.
“We’ve gone hard and gone early to make sure that this lockdown is as short as possible,” Mr Foley said.
He said lifting restrictions, which is set to occur on Tuesday, would be reviewed each day until then.
But Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole said it was unlikely the lockdown would end on Tuesday.
“As long as we continue to have no unlinked cases, and fewer people out in the community, we’re probably on track to ease restrictions in the next 7-10 days,” Professor Toole said.
He said the snap lockdown would work to quickly lower case numbers.
“I was really thankful they had the lockdown Friday because, otherwise, those 19 cases from Saturday would be out in the community,” Professor Toole said.
“I don’t think we could have done it any quicker.”