16 July 2020

We need to throw everything at this outbreak, says AMA chief

Clinical COVID-19 Public Health

The president of the Australian Medical Association says Victoria might be headed for stage four lockdowns if daily numbers of infections continue to rise.

As Victoria records another consecutive day of new COVID-19 cases in the triple figures – a record 317 [update: 428 in the 24 hours to noon Friday] – controversy surrounds the effectiveness of the state’s stage three restrictions.

Under these restrictions, which are in place for six weeks, Victorians can only leave their homes to shop for food and essential items, provide care, do outdoor exercise, work or study.

But Dr Bartone told The Medical Republic that with no promising decline in the rate of new infections, a move to stage four was becoming more likely.

“You can’t continue to have triple-digit numbers of new cases every day after nine, 10 and 11 days of a lockdown has come into place, and still think you are on top of the situation,” he said.

“We’re going to see significant cases of hospitalisation later on this week, and the next, and unfortunately a number of people losing their life.”

And while there is no framework for what stage four restrictions would look like in Australia, some have speculated they would be similar to those in New Zealand, which involved closing all schools, public venues and most businesses including fruit shops, butchers and bakeries.

“I think everything needs to be on the table and everything needs to be utilised in light of this very serious situation,” Dr Bartone said.

He said it was disappointing to see other Australian cities not taking the pandemic seriously, despite recent cases of community transmission.

“I think there is far too much complacency across all of Australia, but particularly among some of the public, and among some businesses, in how they have approached the relaxation of restrictions in recent months,” he said.

“This outbreak is showing us that when we are not watching, this is how quickly the virus can come up and knock us right between the eyes.”

Dr Bartone said now was the time for states and territories to throw “everything they have at the virus, including the proverbial kitchen sink”.

“We don’t get a second chance if we let it get away from us now,” he said.

The Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has also hinted at the possibility of introducing tougher restrictions across the state in the coming weeks.

“Further restrictions need to be considered,” he said earlier today, while announcing the state’s latest COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Australian doctors have been tweeting their fears about the renewed outbreak and the delays in contact tracing.

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