How Has Australia been so successful?
We recently wrote about how New Zealand squashed the curve in their own country by locking down before any deaths were reported.
While Australia didn’t act as quickly as New Zealand (7 deaths were reported in the country before the lockdown started), they still acted early enough to get their hospitals prepared to save lives. Aside from that, Australia and New Zealand have enacted a lot of the same measures which have led to mutual success in stopping the spread of the virus. Both countries have strict physical distancing laws in place which are enforced by police, planes are grounded, schools are closed, and non-essential workers are asked to stay home.
Australia also has unique geographic advantages to fighting COVID-19. The country has a comparatively small population that live in low-density areas, a lot of these cities are geographically distant from each other, and since the country is an Island nation, Australia’s borders can be easily locked down.
And while the CDC hasn’t made any conclusive statements on the virus's relationship with weather, there have been studies done to suggest that COVID-19 spreads slower in warmer climates, which is also to Australia’s advantage.
Finally, Australia’s wealth plays a big role in their coronavirus containment plan. They have highly developed public health systems, and their government has enough money to fund stimulus packages for the public to get them through months of lockdown.
As of now, the estimated effective reproduction number in the country is below 1. This means that with each person infected, the virus is expected to be passed on to less than one other person on average. This is an important milestone to consider and one that other countries hope to achieve before they start talking about ending their own lockdowns.
So when will Australia’s lockdown end?
Australia can end their lockdown in a few ways:
Flatten the curve until they think the virus is eliminated.
Eliminating the virus entirely is also New Zealand’s plan and it’s promising because it would result in the fewest deaths and also doesn’t require the economy to wait for a vaccine to be developed. However, borders will still be closed until conditions get better overseas, but since a huge part of Australia’s economy relies on travellers, workers, and students from other countries, this will still adversely impact the economy.
End lockdowns and hope for herd immunity
This plan would end all restrictions and bring the economy back to pre-pandemic days. The virus will continue to infect people until herd immunity is reached. Once an estimated 60% of the population are infected by the virus, it’ll struggle to spread further into society. The obvious negative side to this plan is the human cost, and because of that it’s unlikely to be put into action.
A mix and match approach
Another option is to end lockdowns flexibly, allowing states to lift restrictions once cases in their regions have stabilized. This will provide better information about which restrictions work, and can also help sections of the economy emerge sooner rather than waiting for the rest of the country to come out of lockdown. While this is an option being championed by some, ending a lockdown only to reimpose it again will lead to mass confusion.
Right now it’s unclear which approach Australia will take, but as reported new cases are falling closer to 0 with each passing day, it’s only a matter of time until an official plan is announced.