No one wants to endure a second round of coronavirus lockdowns.
But if the rate of community transmission of COVID-19 in Australia increases, all our hard work will come undone and health authorities would have no choice but to reimpose restrictions.
So what exactly does ‘community transmission’ mean, and what would a spike look like?
The term ‘community transmission’ describes the situation where a person is infected by the virus but they have not been overseas recently, nor have they been in recent contact with other confirmed cases.
In other words, they have no idea who passed on the disease to them, so contact tracing is virtually impossible.
On Monday, deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said Australia may have another shutdown if there was an increase in community transmission.
“The main indicator would be if there were a large or an increasing number of cases where the public health authorities can’t find the link, and that would indicate community transmission with lots of different clusters that were unrelated,” Dr Coatsworth told Sunrise.
That would be an important sign that things weren’t going to plan.’’
“If we have clusters as we are at the moment, which are restricted, geographically isolated and can be sorted out relatively quickly, well that’s actually a measure of success for the public health authorities.”
On Monday afternoon, a resident of Bundoora’s Villa Maria aged-care facility in Melbourne’s north-east became the latest person to contract the virus.
All staff and residents will be tested in coming days, health authorities said.
It followed the closure of a dozen McDonald’s fast-food restaurants across Melbourne’s north and west after a delivery driver tested positive for COVID-19.
Hundreds of workers at the chain have been asked to self-isolate.
— Mark Santomartino (@msanto92) May 17, 2020
Although the emergence of coronavirus clusters at aged-care facilities and restaurant chains are concerning, as long as health authorities can trace and control the virus’s spread we may not have to return to lockdown.
Dr Coatsworth said it would take at least two weeks to see how effective the initial lockdown restrictions have been on containing the virus’s spread.
He also said further lockdowns would be contingent on our healthcare system’s ability to cope with increased patient numbers.
“As long as an Australian can get an intensive-care bed when they need it for COVID-19, then we’ve got the capacity to manage increased number of cases,” Dr Coatsworth said.