This week we asked the experts to look into their crystal balls and predict how long it would be until we see the coronavirus cases drop now that stage four lockdown has been implemented in Melbourne.
A story that appeared in The Australian on Thursday noted that Victoria’s daily COVID-19 cases would rise to 1,100 by the end of the week and stay at a similar level for a further eight days according to the state government’s leaked secret modelling estimates.
Premier Daniel Andrews said that the “bloke who’s in charge of the modelling” has never seen that report.
“No-one in the government has ever seen it. And that point could have been made last night but the first we heard of the story was when it was printed. So I can only be frank with you – in terms of releasing modelling, modelling gets better and more accurate every day that we have stage 4 going,” he said on Thursday.
We asked our experts what they thought. The question posed was: “How long will it be, in your opinion, before we see numbers drop now that stage four has been implemented?”
The ‘infectious period’ for the COVID-19 virus varies from person to person. This is the time between exposure of the virus to the onset of symptoms. The infectious period for COVID-19 infection is typically on average 4-6 days, although it can start earlier from 1-3 days and can last as long as 10-14 days after exposure to the virus. During this time most people may continue to feel well, or have mild symptoms and still be harbouring and spreading the virus without knowing it. The vulnerable such as the elderly and people with chronic diseases will suffer severe symptoms and are an increase risk of dying.
In the last week Victoria experienced the highest record numbers of COVID-19 infection in Australia. Considering the nature of the virus of being highly infectious and the infectious period, it will take 2-3 weeks from last week before we start to see numbers reducing from the strict lockdowns, including physical distancing, good hygiene and wearing masks if we need to go out for the 4 reasons permitted. However, it all depends as there are other factors which may increase infectious rates e.g. exposure of a newly infected person with large number of people eg workplaces or aged-care centres.
Associate Professor Dr Vicki Kotsirilos AM is a practising General Practitioner with an interest on public health issues.
I am not an epidemiologist, however, what we do know is that what works is the physical distancing and ensuring sanitised conditions including hand washing, access to ventilation and clean air, and following the recommended health guidelines, especially the wearing of masks. Having said that, the incubation period and the onset of symptoms appears to be anywhere between several days and a week, with individual variability, playing a significant part. Added to the complexity, are the psychological ramifications associated with individuals failing to adhere to or flaunt the quarantining-like measures that have been introduced. There is a numbers game here and if between 95 per cent to 99 per cent adhere to the new Stage 4 lockdown restriction numbers should come down in 2-3 weeks. This measure is the only solution that we have at this moment. We have to stop the spread and significantly reduce the unknown contact infection rates.
Kosmas Smyrnios is professor of Family Business Entrepreneurship at RMIT
I would love to be able to predict the number of positive cases that we would have tomorrow.
And I’d certainly love to be able to predict where we’re gonna be in six weeks’ time. That’s not the nature of this virus.
The only thing I can predict is that the virus won’t stop. Neither will I. Neither will the team I lead.
We will do everything we possibly can, with the cooperation and support of Victorians, to drive these numbers down.
That’s the commitment I can give. I can predict no more than that. Other than, I suppose, to say, if people don’t follow these rules, if we don’t all accept that we’re in this together – whether we like that fact or not – we will not drive these numbers down.
These are very difficult decisions. And today is a tough day, one among many. But this is the only way we will drive down movement, and therefore the number of cases, and therefore get to the other side of this.
Trying to predict where this wildly infectious virus will be in a day, let alone in six weeks, is really tough. But the experts tell us, if we follow these rules, if we see this through, then we will drive these numbers down.
Daniel Andrews is the Premier of Victoria.