As Europe battles a second wave of the coronavirus, some countries are taking a leaf out of Victoria’s book and imposing stricter restrictions – but potentially not tight enough to prevent a “tsunami” of new infections.
Alex Polyakov, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne, said in getting COVID figures down to single digits Victoria had “achieved what a lot of people thought was unachievable”.
For European countries to achieve a similar result, they may have to impose a similar lockdown, Dr Polyakov said.
But at this stage, it appears countries are replicating some aspects of Victoria’s and not others.
For example, the people of Ireland have been barred from travelling beyond five kilometres to exercise as part of a move to level five measures coming in at midnight Wednesday and lasting for six weeks.
But unlike for Melburnians at the height of their restrictions, the Irish can break the five-kilometre limit to attend a wedding or funeral.
Exceptions to the rule also include those who have face-to-face medical appointments or are providing care to others.
Like Victoria, funerals in Ireland cannot have more than 10 mourners, shops deemed non-essential will have to shut their doors, hairdressers won’t be allowed to operate, and bars and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway and delivery.
“I am not sure that partial measures would have the same degree of success,” Dr Polyakov said.
“And also people who are contemplating this sort of strategy need to be clearly aware that it took Victoria almost three months to get to where we are.”
Belgium, one of the worst-hit countries during Europe’s first wave, is bracing for a possible “tsunami” of new infections and shutting down all bars and restaurants for a month.
Several hospitals have put non-essential operations on the back burner to enable staff to cope with an expected influx of new cases.
A night curfew is in force from midnight until 5am for at least a month, and the sale of alcohol has been banned after 8pm.
Each resident can choose just one person from outside their household to meet up with face-to-face.
Meanwhile, in Wales, everyone apart from essential workers has been ordered to stay home for a two-week “fire-break” lockdown that will start on Friday and end on November 9.
All non-essential businesses and places of worship will close.
The fact COVID-19 cases are surging in Europe should “silence the critics of Victoria’s lockdown”, ABC medical expert Dr Norman Swan said.
“Lockdown is the only way that you can actually control the virus when it is out of control,” he told News Breakfast on Tuesday.
“Curfews overnight are not going to cut it. They’re just doing too little too late. Many of these countries don’t have good testing and contact tracing regimens in place and, of course, borders are generally open.”
Dr Polyakov said European countries could find it extremely challenging to restrict travel because unlike Australia, they’re not an island.
“There is a lot of travel taking place within the European Union and to outside the European Union.”
Dr Polyakov said if European nations wanted to achieve elimination, which he argued is what Victorian authorities have been chasing, then “they would implement all the measures, not just some of them”.
“It has a steep steep price, which we in this area have paid and achieved something that was was very, very difficult.”