Two-week lockdown

Update: Two-week lockdown ‘inevitable’ as COVID outruns NSW contact tracers

We return to our top story, the unfolding situation in New South Wales around COVID join me to live is Chris Mode, AMA vice President. Chris, thanks for your time. This afternoon we’ve seen a New South Wales premier. Extend this lockdown to Greater Sydney and other areas. Has the horse already bolted?

Look, I think we may look back at it and maybe have made a different decision, but I think the first thing at the moment is really to not looking back at this moment as I’ve known you. So first up to say, I feel terrible for everybody in Sydney and Central Coast and longer, but why can we assure everybody there is that this decision was inevitable? I’ve certainly been in touch with sort of public health officials have been in touch with the New South Wales people and also the most modeling type people who’ve said like this, I definitely had to happen.

They were unanimous that this had to happen. What we’re dealing with is a Delta variant, and this strain is quite a different beast than anything we’ve seen before. The contact traces have clearly been overwhelmed and this thing is outrunning them. And the lockdown sort of the LGA lockdown sort of idea of locking down certain areas, which was trying to Victorian didn’t work last time hasn’t been of much use this time because we haven’t got a defined area like Northern beaches. And essentially, Unfortunately, as I heard last night, a lot of people were streaming out of Sydney on the one and spreading it to other areas, potentially.

So really, this is definitely the right core. It’s straightforward. It just had to happen.

Now, I know you said you don’t want to look back, but they’ve announced a 14 day or just under 14 day lock down. What does a shorter lockdown say seven days have worked if it had been enacted sooner?

Well, I think the previous experience has shown that if you go hard, go early, you can, in fact, first up, get ahead of it and make sure you’ve got it surrounded and knock it out early. And that’s been the case in several states, including my own state, South Australia, but other States as well. I think Victoria, for example, have that lesson the hard way previously. Having said that, I don’t know exact details in the very early stages, but I think history is something we’re going to have to look at later.

The problem with looking at history at the moment is that there’s no point in doing it. And I think the thing is that really, at the moment, recriminations at no use. Those in New South Wales really need to be holding together, get back to basics and start to look after each other, and they start supporting each other. All those people are vulnerable and lonely. The first thing you should be doing is calling them up and supporting them because really, this is the time to hold together.

Realize there are so many variables when it comes to making health decisions, particularly around COVID. But 18 months into managing this virus, why don’t we have a trigger point for the sorts of actions that should be taken? Because at the moment, it appears that every state goes into lockdown should case occur, but New South Wales doesn’t. And now it is.

Look, there have been different factors, and it has improved a lot. It has become much more of a science than it has previously. Now there are probably other features in play, like the previous time in the Northern beaches. We’re doing with a different strain, and we’re dealing with the defined area. Having said that, there may be some feeling later that the reliance on the really very good contact tracing in near South Wales is something that you may look back on maybe even a few days in terms of holding back a decision.

And that may come to be that that will be regret because Unfortunately, I think every day you leave it, it extends the time you may have to lock down later. So but again, that’s the problem. I mean, if we start looking at it at day one out of a lockdown about the regrets, it’s no point at the moment. The thing is that really everybody has to Batten down the hatches and look after each other, and there will be plenty of time to do that later, as was the case in Victoria last time.

So looking at this Delta variant, we know it’s far more transmissible, but is it more deadly?

There’s not a huge lot of evidence for that. And it really is a more matter of the fact that it can spread much more quickly. It’s got another one of these mutations on the outside of the spike protein, which means it attaches to cells more quickly and can get in. There are probably other features of it that we don’t totally understand, which there does seem to make it be able to transmit by an aerosol spread in a much more easy way. That means. And you’re seeing these fleeting context coding.

And as I said, it does appear to be quite a different beast to anything we’ve seen before. And so, Unfortunately, the fact that it seems to be outrun, things like contact tracing has been seen all across the world, and it’s beating out all the other strains at the moment. But so far, the only thing that we are looking at and I think people are considering is whether it may affect younger people more. And unfortunately, there is almost does appear to be a potential even a strain of the Delta Vera, which seems to be emerging, which may be able to a treatment a little bit more, which gets back to the main thing.

We’ve just got to get vaccinated as fast as possible because our problem is these lockdowns still need to occur? Because as a population, we haven’t got to that critical threshold of protecting enough of the population.

That we saw during the Melbourne outbreak that vaccines were redeployed or fast-track to that area. Should the federal government now be looking at doing that for New South Wales?

There might be some of that. But the biggest problem now is vaccinating in a lockdown situation where there’s a potential for transmission in itself makes it a lot harder. The actual vaccination process has to be done in a very careful, covert, safe manner. But look, if your time is up and everybody respects the rules and everything’s done properly, we need to continue with that process. There is the other thing about the delay and the effect of the vaccine in which is a few weeks. But the bottom line is, whatever we can do in terms of vaccinating still helps later on because, at the moment, we are talking about two weeks, and hopefully that will be the case.

But if it goes on longer than that, definitely the extra vaccination is going to help.

Dr Chris May, thank you for your time this afternoon.

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