COVID-19 Containment in Australia

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Serious measures need to be taken to handle the pandemic of COVID-19 in Australia.

More than 1200 doctors from around Australia have signed this letter to implore our government to take the actions needed to slow the progression of COVID-19 across our communities.

We are sharing it here to inform the public of the current state of play and what we really need to be doing.

13 March 2020
The Hon. Greg Hunt, MP Minister for Health
Dear Minister,
RE: COVID-19 Pandemic, Containment measures.
I write to you with regards to the current Coronavirus pandemic that has reached Australia. It seems that there is consensus amongst the medical community that the appropriate action to take in this setting is, to immediately undertake widespread measures to reduce the rate of transmission of this virus within the wider Australian population. Evidence for this comes in the form of an increasing number of cancelled medical conferences, educational events and medical specialty fellowship exams across the country, based on sound medical analysis by the boards of various specialties.
I am dismayed at the disconnect between the actions being taken within the medical community and the recommendation for actions being passed on to the general population. If widespread isolation and social distancing measures are truly what is urgently required to allow a temporised assessment and management plan for the Coronavirus outbreak within Australian borders, then surely we should be making this clear to the general public right now.
With this in mind, I ask for your help to submit just such a proposal to our government. We should immediately recommend a three to four week closure of ​schools, cultural and religious places (including places of worship), gyms and leisure centres, pubs, bars, theatres, cinemas and concert halls. We should also cancel all mass gathering events, such as sporting/motorsport events and festivals.
This would allow a steady declaration of cases of Coronavirus to present to hospitals and fever clinics as their symptomatic phase develops. They could then be tested as per protocols, keeping in mind the pressure on the supply of laboratory testing equipment. Numbers of confirmed cases could then be firmly established and their progress tracked, allowing for clearer guidance for ongoing quarantine requirements. Other people with flu like illnesses, but without the relevant travel histories to countries affected by Coronavirus, would also be able to be assessed and managed appropriately and calmly during this period.
I am aware that such broad measures would come with income/revenue losses for individuals and businesses. My hope is that something like a short term “emergency relief fund” could be established, to help ease such an impact for all concerned. The specifics of such a package would, of course, be worked out by those with the appropriate knowledge.
As a society, if we work with the future in mind, then we could make it through the next few weeks and months with population level outcomes no worse than they need be.
Yours faithfully,
Dr Hemant Garg MBBS FRACGP