With no official decision made on whether the Greater Sydney lockdowns will actually end on Friday (though at this rate it’s pretty bloody unlikely), epidemiologists and experts are coming out of the woodwork to throw their predictions into the ring. Sorry for spoilers mates, but it’s not looking great.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian is yet to make the definitive call on whether the lockdown orders will be extended beyond midnight on Friday, July 16, but indicated over the weekend that it’s “highly unlikely” the restrictions will be lifted on the predicted date.
So if Greater Sydney is looking down the barrel of another lockdown extension, what are epidemiologists predicting lies ahead for Sydney and its surrounds? Well, experts are predicting anywhere between two weeks and two months.
Professor Michael Toole, a leading epidemiologist at the Burnet Institute, looked at the time it took Melbourne to reach zero cases from 100 a day last August. Speaking with News.com.au, Prof. Toole said he looked at the Burnet modelling after Melbourne’s second wave to see what it was that forced the transmission to be quashed.
“It reached almost zero on October 14, so it took six to seven weeks, and that was with the strictest possible restrictions,” he said.
“When Stage 3 restrictions were introduced, 14 days after there was a distinct change, it almost flattened the curve but it wasn’t enough to force a downward trend.
“Stage 4 basically led to the end of the outbreak but it took some time.”
Despite Sydney’s less strict restrictions, Prof Toole recognised that using masks right off the bat has given Sydney a slight advantage, and now has the chance to do better than Melbourne did this time last year.
Prof Toole didn’t give a definite timeline estimate for Sydney’s current lockdowns, but said “we’ve got a long way to go, unless something magical happens.”
(Vaccines. Vaccines are the magical something here.)
On ABC’s News Breakfast this morning, Kirby Institute’s infectious diseases expert Greg Dore believes NSW’s case numbers will peak toward the end of this week, resulting in lockdowns being extended for at least another two weeks.
“We are in this for several weeks at least. There is no doubt about that,” he said.
“So we will be extended from Friday, I imagine for initially at least another couple of weeks but I expect this to go on for another month at least.”
UNSW’s leading epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws spoke with Today on Tuesday morning about her thoughts on how the lockdowns are likely to play out. She too believes the stay-at-home orders may be extended for a few more weeks, especially considering the Delta variant is far more contagious than the strain Melbourne had to wrangle in 2020.
“We’re in our fourth week, and it will probably take another three to four weeks before we get that proportion who are in the community down to zero,” she said.
“Then, some restrictions will be lifted, but we still won’t be out of danger until we’ve had at least 14 days of zero. That, as an epidemiologist says, you’ve now mitigated it; then an additional 14 days says you’ve eliminated it.”
Premier Berejiklian and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant are expected to make a call on the future of the Greater Sydney lockdowns sometime this week, and we’ll keep you updated with everything that you need to know.
Until then, stay home and get tested at the slightest hint of symptoms.