Researchers: Victoria should aim to eliminate, not suppress, COVID-19

Leading epidemiologists have presented a 10-point plan to help Melbourne and Victoria achieve the elimination of COVID-19 within the 6-week lockdown period.

Professor Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist and public health physician at the University of Melbourne, and colleagues wrote that, “Melbourne and Victoria should not waste the opportunity this lockdown presents.”

“We know from New Zealand and Taiwan that elimination of community transmission is achievable in island jurisdictions, both having no reported community transmission for over 2 months as of 10 July,” Blakely and colleagues wrote.

“The advantage of elimination is that despite international border closures or strict quarantine, citizens can go about life with a near-normal functioning of their society and economy. Living in a state or country that has achieved elimination is a far better option than suppression in the short- to medium-term, compared with the high likelihood of recurrent outbreaks precipitating recurrent lockdowns with attendant social and economic disruption. Our case for an explicit elimination strategy in Victoria, now, is that given the state is in lockdown for six weeks,, there is only a marginal cost of ‘going hard’ with a rigorous public health response that increases the probability of achieving elimination,” they wrote.

The authors examined four policy scenarios:

Blakely and colleagues determined that under the “Standard” policy approach, there was no chance that all infected people would have cleared their SARS-CoV-2 infection by 19 August (6 weeks after lockdown started).

“The probabilities for the other three policy approaches are 5% for ‘Standard plus masks at 50%’; slightly more at about 7% for ‘Stringent with masks at 50%’; and nearly 50% for ‘Stringent plus masks at 90%,'” they wrote.

The 10-point plan includes the following:

“We cannot guarantee that our 10-point plan will achieve elimination; we cannot guarantee high compliance in measures by the Victoria population if a more stringent lockdown was imposed; and if the outbreak in NSW restarts community transmission then both NSW and Victoria will need to have elimination strategies for Australia to eliminate,” Blakely and colleagues concluded.

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