The Delta variant outbreak is growing at a rapid rate in Melbourne, despite the hard and fast lockdown. Now, epidemiologists are warning case numbers could overtake NSW and have identified a few reasons why this may be the case.
Today, Victoria recorded 362 cases of COVID-19 with only 107 of those being linked to a known outbreak. This is concerning because it means that some COVID cases may have been missed by contact tracers, who are working tirelessly to identify close contacts.
Reported yesterday: 392 new local cases and 0 cases acquired overseas.
– 36,534 vaccines administered
– 48,063 test results received
— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) September 11, 2021
The problem with Victoria’s numbers is that they are surging at a quicker rate than NSW, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. That’s a reproductive (R) rate of 1.7 over a three day rolling average, compared to NSW with 1.2.
Chair in epidemiology at Deakin University, Professor Catherine Bennett, puts this surge in cases down to two key reasons: a lack of compliance and slow vaccine uptake.
After more than 200 days of lockdown, you can’t blame Victorians for being over it. Unfortunately, that also means that there is less compliance within the state compared to this time last year.
“Every time my partner comes back from his hour of exercise or a bike ride, he tells me he’s seen 40 people with no mask and 20 with a mask, so there’s this sense that even early in this lockdown it quickly looked a bit like the end of the last big lockdown,” Bennet told SMH.
There is also 10 to 15 per cent more movement in Victoria this time around, according to University of Melbourne scientific modeller Jason Thompson, who helped us get COVID-zero last year.
“People just don’t have the energy left in the tank to do the lockdowns like they used to,” he said.
“So when you look back at movement it is lower than it is now.”
Vaccine rates are another reason why COVID numbers are climbing and some of that comes down to lack of supply. Victoria is currently sitting at 66% of the 16+ population having had their first dose, meanwhile NSW is at a whopping 79%. It certainly hasn’t helped that NSW got 45% of the Pfizer vaccines allocated to GPs last month.
I personally know many people who have scrambled to get a Pfizer vaccine like it’s a ticket to Splendour. And only until very recently, those vaccinated with AstraZeneca had to wait 12 weeks in between vaccinations, slowing down uptake.
“The reason we’re seeing this slowdown in the NSW case numbers and reproduction number is because the vaccination is slowly kicking in, whereas in Victoria, I don’t think vaccinations are coming into play yet.” Professor Adrian Esterman, an epidemiologist from the University of South Australia told SMH.
However, Professor Bateman argues that it’s not all to do with lack of supply.
“I’m not pretending that means we’ve got enough supply [in Victoria] because I think if we had more supply and it was easy to make a booking then more people would,” she said.
“But at the moment, we’re not actually using all the bookings we have. There’s an argument we need more supply to stop the escalation, but it gets harder to make that argument if you’re not using all the appointments you have.”
We now know how difficult the Delta variant is to control, so right now it’s all about getting vaccinated and staying inside as much as possible.