Risky virus strategy Australia won’t use
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia won't be pursuing a "risky" elimination strategy to defeat COVID-19.
Speaking at a press conference today, Mr Morrison warned such a move would result in the country suffering a massive economic downfall.
He said countries that have gone for the elimination strategy have seen much greater economic impacts than Australia.
"You're talking about hundreds of thousands of more people unemployed for a start and other businesses closing and livelihoods destroyed," he said.
"In Victoria, they had the hardest lockdowns and theirs is the state that has succumbed to that outbreak, (which) was initiated by a failure in hotel quarantine by returning Australians.
"The idea that people wouldn't be allowed to return to Australia or exporters can't sell products overseas we hold all shipping to Australia, that's where the risk comes from and the greater risk of an eradication strategy is."
He said the view of the Government and health advisers is that an aggressive suppression strategy is the best option.
Elimination and suppression strategies have a lot of the same control measures, including rapid identification and isolation of cases, fast contact tracing, testing and quarantining, social distancing and lockdown measures and border controls.
Where the strategies diverge is when these measures are introduced and how long they stay in place, with suppression strategy aiming to lift restrictions earlier so as not to have as much impact on the economy.
Mr Morrison branded the elimination strategy "very risky and very illusory".
"You can't mortgage off your economy for what would prove to be an illusory goal by the process," he said.
Australia's deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth released a statement today branding the renewed calls for an elimination strategy "unrealistic and dangerous".
"The inference is that if Victoria had eliminated community transmission, this second outbreak would not have occurred - something which is patently false," he said in a statement.
"As the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, has said, this outbreak has largely stemmed from breaches in quarantine arrangements for Australian citizens returning from overseas. Such breaches would have ceded this outbreak even if community transmission had been eliminated for several weeks."
Dr Coatsworth said true elimination is only a realistic strategy when there is a vaccine available.
He used measles as an example, noting the World Health Organisation (WHO) branded the illness eliminated in Australia in 2014.
"We have occasional outbreaks, which are quickly brought under control by our public health teams and because we have an excellent immunisation program," he said.
"In Australia, we have pursued aggressive suppression with the knowledge this will lead to periods of elimination in parts of the country."
Australia is not in a position to achieve elimination as global transmission is increasing, the deputy CMO said.
"It is impossible to completely seal the borders of any country - even an island continent such as Australia - and nor should we try to. Returning travellers, freight vessels and associated crews will continue to come from countries with widespread transmission," he said.
"No country or part of a country can assume that a period of local elimination is protection against further community outbreaks.
"Our systems are excellent, but they will never be perfect, and it would be irresponsible for any leader to claim they could be."
WHO recently confirmed its view that elimination and eradication are unrealistic goals, Dr Coatsworth said.
"In Australia, we will continue to strive for local elimination wherever possible. We remain one of the world's most successful nations in the fight against COVID-19," he said.
"We have achieved this, not by pursuing the false hope of elimination, but by realistic, pragmatic and proportionate action when it is most necessary."
Originally published as Risky virus strategy Australia won't use