Fate of 5 million Australians in our hands

Apr 2 2020

Filmed 27 March 2020

Up to 5 million Australians are estimated to be at risk of COVID-19 infection, according to public health expert Professor David Durrheim, with their fate literally resting in the hands of  community.

Measures such as hand hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation are critical to determining the future load on healthcare services.

“It’s hard to predict where and when this will end,” Professor Durrheim says. “We’re working on estimates of 15 to 20 per cent of the population being infected in the first wave of COVID-19 – up to 5 million people nationally. What we can do, though, is slow the spread dramatically.

“The transmission rate that follows a single case of the disease is averaging at 2½, which means it can rapidly spread in the community. But we have the advantage that the virus is droplet-borne, so if we keep infected people isolated at home we can get ahead of it.”

A member of HMRI’s Public Health research program and Health Protection Director at Hunter New England Health, Professor Durrheim’s strong background in disease tracking is critical to managing the pandemic.

“We track every case as soon as possible, find their close contacts, and make sure we isolate all of them,” he adds. “That is our best chance of actually slowing the spread. It may mean a bit of pain for a bit longer … but it’s a very worthwhile sacrifice.

“We’ve seen that with the heroes of this virus – those who’ve been inadvertently exposed and are staying at home and keeping our community safe.”

For up to date information and advice about the current COVID-19 situation please visit the Australian Government Department of HealthNSW Health and World Health Organisation websites.

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