Victorian restrictions avert thousands of new infections

New Burnet Institute research published in pre-print in the Medical Journal of Australia shows the timely introduction of Stage 3 COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria averted tens of thousands of new infections across the state throughout July.

But the researchers, including Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC, stress that much more will be needed to achieve the further 14 percent reduction in transmission required to control the epidemic.

While a state of disaster has since been declared in Victoria and restrictions stepped up to Stage 4 in a bid to curb rates of infection that are the highest in Australia, the Burnet study suggests the situation would have been far worse.

Between 1 and 30 July since the Stage 3 restrictions were introduced, 8,314 cases of local transmission were diagnosed in Victoria.

Had the growth rate continued unchanged at levels occurring prior to the introduction of restrictions, the researchers estimate there would have been 27,000 cases, and potentially up to 45,000 during this period.

Restrictions introduced in the study period included the closure of entertainment venues, limiting public gatherings to two people, the quarantining of several public high-rise housing estates, the closure of state borders, and the compulsory use of masks in public settings.

The researchers outline challenges that lay ahead to bring the epidemic under control, including the prospect that the introduction of compulsory face coverings will be effective.

The study also flags the importance of community engagement, rather than top-down control responses to address community fatigue and reduced adherence to this second round of control measures compared to the first.

“To gain and sustain community cooperation, rapid research and community engagement approaches are needed that identify and respect specific needs and information gaps,” the researchers write.

“A community engagement approach also helps identify the interventions required to support both the wider community and vulnerable groups to have the capability and motivation to cooperate with government pandemic response strategies and guidelines.”

Click here to read the Burnet study in pre-print in the MJA.

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