New research reckons Sydney’s lockdown might need to last until at least late August or early September in order for daily case numbers to get back down to a manageable level. If you still had your heart set on restrictions easing by July 31, it’s probs time to put that fantasy to rest.

Researches from the University of Melbourne’s Populations Intervention Unit used an updated version of their modelling from last year’s massive lockdown in Melbourne to see how different levels of restrictions would achieve a target of five cases per day, which was the official threshold Victoria was using at the time to ease restrictions.

“Our modelling suggests the ‘Stage 4’ lockdown now put in place [in Greater Sydney] will reduce the number of daily cases to five or less (averaged over 14 days) within 5.8 weeks,” the researches explained in their own write-up.

To reach this figure, they ran the current ‘Stage 4’ lockdown scenario 10,000 times to determine that we’d likely hit that threshold sometime between August 26, or as late as September 16.

“It’s a bit like rerunning a time machine over and over again to capture the randomness or stochasticity in how COVID-19 behaves,” the researchers wrote.

However, according to additional simulations, if Sydney had just stuck with its previous ‘Stage 3’ restrictions, things would likely only get better towards the end of September. For the ‘Stage 2’ restrictions before that, it would probably take a good three-and-a-half months to get out of this mess.

“The key message is that what was announced on Saturday was the right decision, not just because it is only five weeks compared to 17 for Stage 2 restrictions. The most important thing is it reduces the uncertainty,” study lead Dr Driss Ait Ouakrim told the ABC.

Despite the researchers praising the NSW government’s eventual lockdown restrictions, that love hasn’t been reciprocated.

At her daily press conference in Sydney on Wednesday morning, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian flat-out dismissed the gravity of the modelling.

“Modelling has a role and a purpose but what is the most effective tool for us to measure what the result looks like is our own activity,” she said.

“The modelling can’t predict how many people will stay in their homes and not be mobile.

“It’s just an indicator for what could happen and different modelling gives you different results.”

Berejiklian also said: “Remember the modelling we were presented with 18 months ago about the number of cases and deaths which would happen in Australia? That didn’t materialise.”

However the difference between the beginning of last year and now, the researchers pointed out, is that the Delta strain is a “game-changer”.

“It’s harder to control and eliminate and makes policies other than hard lockdown very uncertain and hard to predict,” they wrote.

“So NSW made the hard decision to go into hard lockdown – but it’s the right thing to do.

“Let’s now hope luck is on NSW’s side again, and the lockdown is more like four weeks than seven weeks.”

Image: Getty Images / Lisa Maree Williams