Qld ‘dampening the curve’ but restrictions to stay
STRINGENT quarantine and social distancing rules appear to be dampening the growth of COVID-19 cases in Queensland, but experts say it would be "ridiculous" to start rolling back unprecedented public health restrictions any time soon.
Queensland cases of the new virus rose by 31 to 656 yesterday, as the state recorded a third death from COVID-19.
A 75-year-old woman died in the Caboolture Hospital, one of more than 60 Queenslanders infected with the virus on the Ruby Princess cruise ship.
While Queensland COVID-19 cases jumped by 153 per cent in the seven days to yesterday, the previous week saw a much more dramatic spike of 324 per cent.
"The rate of growth last week was half that of the week before. We are flattening the curve," Queensland Minister Steven Miles said.
Medical and science experts say the figures show Australia's border control, social distancing and quarantine policies are working, at least for now.
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in QLD
With the incubation period for the virus said to be up to two weeks, Australia as a whole seems to be benefiting from measures announced on March 15 ordering all overseas travellers into quarantine for 14 days on their arrival into the country.
"I think we can look on this as the first glimmer of things improving but there is plenty of water to go under the bridge yet," Griffith University infectious diseases expert Nigel McMillan said.
He said mapping of national COVID-19 infections showed Australia was trending lower than the worst affected countries, such as the US, Spain and Italy, where thousands of people have died.
"I suspect it's because we got on this earlier than those countries," Professor McMillan said. "This is very encouraging. Their common feature are outbreaks that got a head start before authorities took action."
University of Queensland virologist Ian Mackay said that although Australia's policies appeared to be working, it may be months before governments could start to relax strict social distancing and border control measures.
"All of these interventions have to stay in place until we can really get a better hold on things," Associate Professor Mackay said.
"Personally, I think we have to have the border closures remaining for months. And then obviously, as the experts are doing, monitor the situation on a day-by-day basis.
"In the meantime, we have to plan for the worst, which is that other countries have seen exponential growth and they've seen large numbers of hospital cases and overloaded health systems. We have to keep planning for that because we know it happens just about everywhere. We may be in a lucky spot in Australia that we've gotten ahead of it, but we don't know that yet."
Of Queensland's cases, 57 yesterday were in hospital, including three in intensive care.
Two of the three Queenslanders who have died from COVID-19 are among at least five Australians who have lost their lives to the virus after being infected on cruise ships.
All of the 16 Australian COVID-19 deaths have been in the elderly.
But Professor Mackay urged young Australians to take the virus seriously.
"We'd be foolish to think that everyone who dies will be elderly," he said. "I think that would be silly because in Italy, they've seen younger people with severe disease and among the dead as well. I think that message has probably been lost on some of our younger population here."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday took aim at younger people, particularly in their 20s and 30s, continuing to flagrantly ignore social distancing rules and congregating in groups at beaches and shopping centres.
"There seems to be a view that because they are healthier, that they are not transmitters of the virus," he said.
"They are transmitters of the virus. While they themselves may only have a mild case ... that is no guarantee. What they are doing by having that view, is that they are putting other peoples' peoples lives at risk.
Although most Australian cases of COVID-19 have been traced to travellers, or their close contacts, Professor Mackay said no-one could be sure about the levels of community spread.
"I'm very cautious when somebody says: 'Oh look, we've got no widespread community transmission'," he said. "Until we have testing criteria that lets us check that, we don't actually know."
Testing so far has largely concentrated on overseas travellers who have developed symptoms, their close contacts if they have fallen ill and health workers with a fever and respiratory symptoms.
Originally published as Qld 'dampening the curve' but restrictions to stay