Higher Brisbane’s 72-hour COVID lockdown, which takes effect at 6pm on Friday, has an important distinction from the months-long lockdown endured by Melbourne earlier this year, or the present restrictions aimed toward stamping out Sydney’s COVID clusters.
In Brisbane’s case, it’s only a circuit-breaker designed to right away minimise everybody’s variety of shut contacts till we are able to set up whether or not anybody has caught the virus from the one recognized case: a resort quarantine cleaner who was shifting round in the neighborhood for 5 days earlier than testing positive yesterday.
Melbourne’s lockdown, in distinction, was about suppressing viral transmission from instances that numbered within the hundreds and the place workplaces have been the primary driver of unfold. That meant isolating everybody till the continuous seeding again into the group may very well be stopped.
Brisbane’s shorter lockdown permits well being authorities to search out and check anybody who may, for example, have been on public transport with the one girl we all know has been contaminated to this point.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk mentioned authorities have been aiming to “go arduous and go early”, given the contaminated girl is understood to have contracted the extra infectious UK mutant pressure of the coronavirus.
Because of this the announcement has been immediate: the timeframe for circuit-breakers should be quick however the listing of allowable causes for leaving the home is comparatively beneficiant to compensate. In addition to the standard necessities akin to procuring, well being care and train, it additionally consists of attending workplaces when working from house is impractical, and going to weddings and funerals (with restricted numbers) as a result of folks might have rapid plans they can not change.
That mentioned, the panic-buying witnessed in Brisbane’s retailers right now is admittedly disappointing. The retailers will nonetheless be open, you’ll be able to nonetheless store as one among your causes to go away residence, and everybody crowding into retailers at first of lockdown really will increase the chance of an infection.
We’ve seen how this stuff play out – the empty cabinets and bathroom paper shortages. We wouldn’t want Melbourne’s scenario on anyone, however they’ve proven it’s doable to dwell with lockdown. It’s really the panic-buying that causes the shortages in provide. However it simply appears to be an instinctive human response that may’t be prevented.
Does it matter that the ‘UK superstrain’ is concerned right here?
The protocol for dealing with a scenario like this needs to be the identical no matter whether or not the “UK superstrain” is concerned or not.
With a low variety of instances, it doesn’t make a lot of a distinction which variant is accountable. It might make a distinction if case numbers climbed or the virus acquired into workplaces and started to get a foothold in the neighborhood. Then, the actual fact this pressure spreads extra quickly would change into a hazard.
The truth that Melbourne’s lockdown efficiently suppressed inside a matter of weeks a brand new “mutant” pressure with among the similar genetic modifications because the UK variant, whereas the variant liable for greater than 99% of the second wave was a supposedly much less infectious pressure, reveals that what issues most is the how the epidemic seeds, the place transmission is established and the way it’s managed, not simply the COVID pressure itself.
Brisbane’s present scenario does present the worth of extra frequent testing of resort quarantine workers. Once we had the Adelaide outbreak, I advocated for every day testing, or testing on every shift, to be the nationwide testing normal for all staff on the quarantine frontline. The Victorian authorities has already utilized it, and Nationwide Cupboard has now established this because the the nationwide normal.
With extra frequent testing, we wouldn’t have the scenario now we have in Queensland. As a substitute, the girl who’s believed to have been infectious since January 2 would have examined constructive on her final shift that day, moderately than when she developed signs a number of days later. This is able to have eliminated the dangers related together with her subsequent actions in the neighborhood.
Testing occasions for air passengers
Nationwide Cupboard has additionally introduced a collection of recent measures aimed toward decreasing the dangers related to air journey and the potential arrival of COVID instances amongst returned travellers.
All passengers will likely be required to check damaging earlier than boarding a flight to Australia, and masks will likely be necessary on all worldwide and home flights and inside airports.
Testing constructive for a check completes inside 72 hours of a flight will rule that passenger, and any of their family contacts, from boarding the flight. It is a great way of taking the strain off our returnee quarantine course of, though it won’t get rid of the chance completely. It’s nonetheless doable passengers or crew will convey the virus into Australia as some should be incubating an an infection when in transit.
Whereas it’s not possible to rule out that constructive instances will arrive amongst returned travellers, significantly from the UK, it’s going to undoubtedly cut back the proportion of arrivals who’re constructive, and PCR testing is rather more dependable than screening for signs.
Obligatory masks are additionally a smart thought – many passengers have been already carrying them so this about making it necessary and constant throughout all carriers. For those who don’t have the virus, the very last thing you need is to contract it on the airplane.
Whereas Brisbane’s lockdown covers a sizeable space of Queensland’s southeast, wholesale border closures — akin to Western Australia’s new resolution to bar arrivals from Queensland — is overkill.
We should have the ability to handle our response to this pandemic nationally. This isn’t the time for states to be saying “our processes are higher than yours”. As a substitute, we must always have a coordinated course of, so when you’ve got instances arriving in your state, we are able to all work collectively to handle it.
Closing the border to travellers from particular hotpots: sure. That’s the way you handle threat. However doing it past the hotspots, particularly if there aren’t even any recognized publicity websites exterior the hotspot, appears pointless and counterproductive, particularly within the context of a circuit-breaker in contrast with proof of unknown group transmission.
Arduous border closures convey a number of well being and financial penalties.
Masks imply you’ll be able to cut back transmission threat, hold borders open and comprise native clusters that begin earlier than you already know the virus has landed in your space – masks are completely the best way to go. It’s simply one thing you’ll be able to put in your pocket, and authorities can step the principles up and down as required. True, we are going to see extra clusters, however they may doubtless be smaller and contained extra promptly.