Up to 150,000 Aussies could die from the coronavirus pandemic in the worst-case scenario, according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.

In an address to the National Press Club on Monday, Kelly said that anywhere from 20% to 60% of Australians could contract the disease.

That would mean a best-case scenario of 50,000 deaths in Australia, and a worst-case scenario three times higher than that, according to current modelling.

“The death rate is around 1%, so you can do the math,” Kelly said.

“It’s something in that range [of 20% to 60% of Australians contracting the virus], I’m not going to speculate on the actual numbers.

“But this is an infectious disease. The more we can do to separate people and to stop that infection spreading, the better.”

Kelly went on to explain that current measures being taken – including imposing self-isolation on all international arrivals and encouraging social distancing – are an effort to slow the epidemic rather than stop it altogether.

There will still be some necessary human interaction. Kelly gave the example of taxi drivers who will still have to pick up international arrivals from the airport in order to bring them home for self-isolation.

“We will have more cases. What we’re trying to do is have less and over a longer time,” he added.

While it is not possible to completely stop the spread of the disease, we can all make efforts to reduce human interaction in order to “flatten the curve“.

This prevents the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, allowing those who do contract the virus to receive the medical attention they need.

The government has already banned public gatherings of over 500 people, and may reduce this number in line with other countries in future. Many businesses are working from home, and some schools have suspended classes after coronavirus scares.

There are currently over 300 confirmed cases in Australia. Continuing to limit these interactions will limit the spread of the disease.

Image: AAP / Lukas Coch