New infections in Australia rose by just 12 yesterday, with no Queensland, Western Australia or the Australian Capital Territory, just five in NSW, four in Tasmania, two in Victoria and one in South Australia. The Northern Territory hasn’t had a new virus case for two weeks.
It’s a positive sign but Scott Morrison today warned Australians not to become complacent, highlighting a long list of countries that are still experiencing horrific impacts from the virus.
Australia’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 76, with Mr Morrison warning that number could be a lot higher if we don’t continue to follow the strict measures put in place.
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“As sad as that is for those families, let’s not forget that in countries that are smaller than Australia, like Belgium – 6262 people have died. In the Netherlands, 4068 have died. In Sweden 1937 people have died,” he said during a press conference today.
“If you look at the fatality rates as a proportion of population, in the United States it is almost 50 times higher than Australia. In France it is over 100 times higher than Australia. In the United Kingdom also, just under 100 times higher. In Germany it is over 20 times higher. In Switzerland it is over 60 times higher. Denmark over 20. Italy 12.
“These are all sophisticated, developed economies with good health systems. This can happen in Australia if we are not careful, and that is why Australians and our governments have been so careful.”
Though Australia does have some geographical advantages over these countries, such as being a large island, UNSW Virologist Professor William Rawlinson said there are multiple factors that have impacted our success in slowing the virus.
“We are an island so being able to control our borders is a big thing. I think the second thing is distance. There is the ability to reduce contact between people because there is so much physical space in the country. There is the ability to quarantine people in a setting where people aren’t in close contact,” Prof Rawlinson told news.com.au.
“There is no doubt that our physical characteristics help, but you do have to remember that most of us live in cities and the majority of the population is urban rather than everyone being a great distance apart.
“Other factors that help slow the spread of the virus are things like contact tracing, testing and quarantine. There are islands in the pacific that have small populations but still have a lot of cases on the island.”
Prof Rawlinson said while it is important to take advantage of geological factors, you still have to have strong public health interventions or being an island isn’t going to matter.
“There is no doubt that unless you take advantage of everything you can then it will be more difficult to slow the spread. You have to have different public health approaches for different areas and Australia has utilised what we have,” he said.
“Just relying on being an island is insufficient, you have to expand testing and have appropriate public health intervention to stop close contact.”