Gain from tough virus measures worth the pain

The most benign scenario in the modelling, with a combination of quarantine, isolation and social-distancing measures, would still produce an infection rate of 11.6 per cent. That might lead to 20,000 deaths. But this is not a model of actual policy today.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison rightly argued these are theories, not facts.

The biggest lesson from the modelling is how little we know. The government released an anodyne slide pack that looked backwards rather than applying actual numbers to forecast where we are going. That work is still to come.

But there is no doubt combined government action has worked. Australia has flattened the curve. Even so, there is a warning for anyone who assumes they know exactly which measures work best.

How much gain is there from school closures, for instance?

Jodie McVernon, a professor at the University of Melbourne and one of the top epidemiologists advising the government, said so many measures had been applied so rapidly and concurrently that singling any of them out was extremely difficult.

“I could overlay any number of curves on a model and it would show that things do better and better together, but we actually don’t know how well school closure works,” she said. “And the role of children as transmitters in this epidemic remains very uncertain.”

There is more work to be done before Australians can know which measures need to stay in place and which ones might be eased.


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