New Burnet Institute research published in pre-print in the Medical Journal of Australia shows the timely introduction of Stage 3 COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria averted tens of thousands of new infections across the state throughout July.
But the authors, including Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC, stress that much more will be needed to achieve the further 14 percent reduction in transmission required to control the epidemic.
While a state of disaster has since been declared in Victoria and restrictions stepped up to Stage 4 in a bid to curb rates of infection that are the highest in Australia, the Burnet study suggests the situation would have been far worse.
Between 1 and 30 July since the Stage 3 restrictions were introduced, 8,314 cases of local transmission were diagnosed in Victoria.
Had the growth rate continued unchanged at levels occurring prior to the introduction of restrictions, the researchers estimate there would have been 27,000 cases, and potentially up to 45,000 during this period.
Restrictions introduced in the study period included the closure of entertainment venues, limiting public gatherings to two people, the quarantining of several public high-rise housing estates, the closure of state borders, and the compulsory use of masks in public settings.
The researchers outline challenges that lay ahead to bring the epidemic under control including the prospect that the introduction of compulsory face coverings will be effective.
The study also flags the importance of community engagement, rather than top-down control responses to address community fatigue and reduced adherence to this second round of control measures compared to the first.
“To gain and sustain community cooperation, rapid research and community engagement approaches are needed that identify and respect specific needs and information gaps,” the researchers write.
“A community engagement approach also helps identify the interventions required to support both the wider community and vulnerable groups to have the capability and motivation to cooperate with government pandemic response strategies and guidelines.”
Click here to read the Burnet study in pre-print in the MJA.
Burnet Institute is an independent medical research institute and as with other medical research institutes in Victoria, receives competitive funding support for its research programs from many sources including the National Health and Medical Research Council, Medical Research Future Fund, Operational Infrastructure Support Scheme of the State Government of Victoria, Victorian Medical Research Accelerator Fund, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and philanthropic support from the Australian community, and various national and international Trusts and Foundations.
Victoria’s response to a resurgence of COVID-19 has averted 9,000-37,000 cases in July 2020. Allan Saul, Nick Scott, Brendan S Crabb, Suman S Majundar, Benjamin Coghlan and Margaret E Hellard, Med J Aust, Published online: 4 August 2020.
This work is not part of the activities funded by the Victorian State Government via the Coronavirus Victoria Consortium or any other mechanism, and is an independent study led by Professor Alan Saul in an honorary capacity.