‘Dissenting’ doctor calls for total COVID-19 lockdown

Victoria's chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton has called for a total lockdown, signalling he doesn't agree with the Federal Government's approach in containing the COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier this week, he tweeted that the nation should "#gohard #gofast" against the outbreak after a Morrison Government official took a different tack.

His "dissenting view" was revealed by the Federal Government's deputy chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, during a live appearance on ABC current affairs show 7.30.

 

Dr Kelly said he and other members of the Australian Health Protection Principals Committee (AHPPC) were all for a "proportional, scalable and sustainable approach" - with the exception of Dr Sutton.

"At the moment a proportional, scalable and sustainable approach is what myself and my colleagues in the AHPPC have been advising governments … other than the Victorian Chief Health Officer (Dr Sutton) who has a dissenting view," he said.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Dr Sutton said the question of "going hard" was a "matter for the national cabinet".

 

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton speaks to the media on Thursday. Picture: AAP Image/Stefan Postles
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton speaks to the media on Thursday. Picture: AAP Image/Stefan Postles

"It's not just my opinion. I provided it, as I say, with frank and fearless advice, but there are a whole lot of inputs that need to be considered," he said.

He expressed concerns that Victorians weren't doing enough to help quell the outbreak.

But he did say we could avoid a similar trajectory to Italy or the United States.

"The positive here is we can make a difference. We can actually not go down the pathway that many countries in Europe and the US are heading down - a catastrophic pathway," Dr Sutton said.

"We can actually go down a different fate for ourselves. And we should."

 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says people shouldn’t use the word ‘lockdown’. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says people shouldn’t use the word ‘lockdown’. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has offered a different approach, urging the Australian public to avoid using the word "lockdown", saying it creates "unnecessary anxiety" and contributes to panic-buying.

Speaking after a national cabinet meeting yesterday, he suggested the word would give people the false impression they couldn't go out and buy essential supplies.

"I would caution against the way people talk about this word 'lockdown','' he said.

"I don't want to give people … the idea that that is going to be the place we might get to, where people can't go out and get essential supplies, that they can't get the things they need to actually live life for the next six months.

"So, when we talk about potential other restrictions, there is no need for people to rush out and cram supermarkets and do things like that, because of other restrictions that may become necessary."

He said the word creates "unnecessary anxiety" and that a total lockdown was "not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest".

Earlier this week, a key member of an expert COVID-19 panel warned the nation's death toll could rise if the Australian Government didn't implement a harder lockdown.

Professor Raina MacIntyre from the UNSW's Biosecurity Program said the government was not listening to the panel's recommendation that a short but complete lockdown be put in place.

"The majority of people on the panel did agree with this go hard, go now approach," she told the ABC.

"The other alternative is to wait until things really get out of control and your health system starts to get infected.

"Then you try all those measures which we've seen happening in Italy and Spain and so on. But by then, the epidemic is so big that the chance of success is less and the time to recover from that is much longer."

She said the country would take a worse economic hit in the long-run - as well as see a higher death toll - if we didn't take a tough approach now.

"If you don't control the disease, your economic losses are going to be far greater and the recovery time is going to be a lot longer."

Originally published as 'Dissenting' doctor calls for lockdown


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