A leading epidemiologist and an adviser to the World Health Organization is calling for a nighttime curfew and daily testing for workers to bring Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak under control.
With a lockdown not producing the desired results in Australia’s largest city, it’s time to implement even stricter restrictions.
That’s the opinion of professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an epidemiologist from the University of New South Wales. She is also a member of a World Health Organization expert panel on COVID-19.
The state government in New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital city, has said that higher rates of vaccination, up to 80 percent of the population, are the key to the gradual easing of restrictions.
But McLaws says the benefits of mass inoculations will take time to reduce the spread of the delta variant.
“We are not going to get out of this with the vaccine. We’re certainly going to prevent deaths and hospitalizations, and then eventually we will start seeing a wonderful public health impact on reduced spread. But we do need more testing at the worksite, daily testing. We need night curfews to stop people wanting to sneak out at night and go and visit friends or extended families,” McLaws said.
State authorities in New South Wales concede they may be forced to abandon the policy of trying to eliminate the virus because the spread of infections in Sydney is proving hard to stop, despite Australia's strictest lockdown. Instead of trying to crush the virus, officials say Australia might have to live with it and hope the population would be protected by mass vaccinations.
Indeed, New South Wales set a new daily record Tuesday with 356 recently diagnosed COVID-19 infections.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian is pleading with residents, especially those in Sydney’s virus hot spots, to get vaccinated.
“Those that are unvaccinated of any age continue to be vulnerable, and with case numbers where they are, unfortunately if you live in those local government areas of concern there is a high chance now you could get the virus. Please protect yourself, your family, your loved ones, your community by getting vaccinated,” Berejiklian said.
Australia’s inoculation rates are much lower than other countries. About 22 percent of eligible Australians older than 16 have been fully inoculated. There have been problems with supply, but, crucially, there have been widespread concerns in the country about possible side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
A third vaccine, Moderna, has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australia’s official medical regular.
One million doses are expected to arrive in September of the 10 million doses ordered. The AstraZeneca and Pfizer treatments were approved earlier this year.
Australia has recorded 36,330 coronavirus cases and 936 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.
The country’s virus strategy includes the closure of its international borders to most foreign travelers, strict lockdowns and mass testing.
A lockdown that began last Thursday in Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city, continues.