Can eastern states learn from South Australia to limit omicron spread?

Public Health Association of Australia

On Friday 14 January 2022, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall released data from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) suggesting modest public health measures have flattened the omicron curve in that state.

“If that assessment is true then all other states, and particularly those down the east coast, should as a matter of urgency adopt similar strategies to those in SA,” said PHAA CEO, Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin.

The restrictions put in place in SA from Boxing Day 2021 included a 1 person per 4-square-metres density limit for indoor seated hospitality, caps of 10 people in private homes, and mask mandates for indoors and high-risk settings.

This has resulted in a “daily cases likely peak at between 6,000 and 10,000, vastly lower than the 30,000-40,000 predicted,” the SA Premier’s statement said.

Some, but not all, larger population states have only last week moved to reimpose restrictions.

“Clearly the South Australian population is far lower than that of NSW, VIC or QLD, but on a per 100,000 persons basis, it is clear that virus spread is far lower in SA,” the PHAA’s Professor Slevin said.

This requires two urgent responses:

  1. An external analysis of the circumstances in SA compared to other states;
  2. If this observation is confirmed, all jurisdictions (except WA) should instate the levels of restriction in South Australia

Easing restrictions aimed at promoting the spread of the virus in the name of “opening up the economy” have clearly back-fired. The rapid spread of disease has crippled the workforce, and therefore the functioning of the economy.

A decision to return to a “flatten the curve” strategy appears now viable. And now there is evidence it is likely to be successful, and therefore an essential course of action.

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