The Australian public have rejected calls for lockdown restrictions to be imposed longer to avoid a second wave of coronavirus infections.
On Sunday night, Florida-based infectious disease expert Dena Grayson told 60 Minutes she had grave concerns Australia may undo its remarkable work by relaxing lockdown measures as the country heads into winter.
But with the COVID-19 curve largely flattened, Australians are itching to return to work and life as normal as soon as possible.
‘No economy [will] then lead to no jobs, then poverty and more people will die. You can’t shut a country down forever,’ one person wrote on Twitter following the segment.
Dr Grayson said the virus remains ‘very, very contagious.’
‘I think you’re going to see new cases soar,’ she said. ‘You’re left with terrible choices: Stay locked down with economic disaster or do you try to open up too early?’
The Australian public have rejected calls for lockdown restrictions to be imposed longer to avoid a second wave of coronavirus
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and state leaders, have acknowledged there will likely be a spike in new cases following the easing of restrictions, but they are not anticipating cases to skyrocket.
Instead of keeping lockdown in place like Dr Grayson suggested, the government will look to increase testing and contact tracing.
Most health authorities have been talking about this for a month,’ another person said in relation to the prospect of a second wave.
‘I’m sure Australia’s health chiefs have made ScoMo aware of this.’
Meanwhile, others described Dr Grayson’s concerns – and 60 Minutes decision to air them – as scare tactics.
‘So sick of the fear mongering,’ a Daily Mail Australia reader said. ‘The curve has been flattened, so the isolate sick, elderly and vulnerable and open the country back up and let the healthy people get on with their lives.’
Up to one million Australians were put out of work as a result of the coronavirus crisis, leading to long queues out the front of Centrelink offices in the early days of the pandemic (Queues for Centrelink in Sydney on March 23, the day bars, cafes, gyms and pubs closed)
This graph shows the percentage of employees put out of work during the coronavirus crisis according to Deloitte modelling
‘Dr Grayson will oppose anything a conservative government does.
‘Life is full of risk, we accept the risk. Now get on with it,’ another said.
There are currently 6,940 known cases of coronavirus in Australia, including 6,167 who have already recovered and 97 deaths.
The primary concern for health authorities is community transmission and tracing unknown cases of the deadly respiratory virus.
Dr Grayson said 60 percent of infections were in people who had no symptoms as she urged Australia to test, test and test some more – and to hire an army of contact tracers.
‘Your country has done a fabulous job of getting your hands around this virus and just as you’re… entering flu season, and you’re not having a lot of new cases, my worry is you let your foot off the brake and so many people will die,’ she said.
‘You can find 10 others that will say the opposite. If you have any sign of a cold get tested move on. Common sense,’ one person said on Twitter following the program airing.
‘Bloody 60 minutes, just as we start easing restrictions they relaunch a scare campaign not to do so. They want us locked down permanently.’
There are 6,940 known cases of coronavirus in Australia, including 97 people who have died
The economy took a hit following the closure of bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants
Another dire warning about the relaxation of restrictions came from the COVID-19-stricken island of Hokkaido, Japan.
Local academic Kazuto Suzuki said early success, along with complacency, saw the island placed back into emergency lockdown 26 days after its governor lifted restrictions.
Infections jumped by nearly a thousand percent just a week after restrictions relaxed and Hokkaido now has more than 14 times as many cases as when the first state of emergency was called.
‘They wanted to have a freedom back,’ said Professor Suzuki from the Public Policy School of Hokkaido University.
‘Don’t take the lockdown for granted.’
Professor Suzuki said lifting the state of emergency sent the wrong message and suggested second waves are inevitable when restrictions are eased.
‘It is extremely dangerous because one day this asymptomatic person will infect others, and the power of transmission of this virus is extremely powerful,’ he told 60 Minutes.
Pictured: Anti-lockdown protester Fanos Panayides detained by police outside Parliament House, Melbourne, on Sunday. Businesses are keen to end restrictions but experts warn the second wave could be far greater and more deadly than the first, if easing is too quick
The Japanese island of Hokkaido was struck by a second coronavirus wave 14 times as bad as the first after lifting its lockdown too early. Pictured: People in Sapporo, Hokkaido in February
The mountainous island prefecture of 5.3 million people was the first Japanese area to suffer a major coronavirus outbreak.
The first person to bring the virus in was a tourist from Wuhan, China, on January 28.
A month later, there were 66 people infected and Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki declared a state of emergency.
Schools, restaurants and businesses shut. The people complied even though it was not compulsory, devastating the two biggest industries of tourism and agriculture.
By mid-March, the lockdown was working.
New cases appeared only sporadically with none on some days and just single digits on others.
Governor Suzuki decided on March 19 to end the state of emergency and lift the restrictions to ease the economic pain.
Hokkaido residents were asked to continue restricting social interaction, but they couldn’t help celebrating the end of three weeks’ confinement.
Hokkaido University professor Kazuto Suzuki (pictured) warned Australia not to take the lockdowns for granted as asymptomatic transmission made the virus extremely infectious
Hokkaido has a population of 5.3million people had been an exemplary standard in virus management before they lifted their lockdown too soon and got hit by a deadly second wave
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,940
New South Wales: 3,054
Western Australia: 552
South Australia: 439
Australian Capital Territory: 107
Northern Territory: 29
TOTAL CASES: 6,940
Professor Suzuki said lifting the state of emergency sent the message that the threat was gone.
People took to the streets and cafes – and worse, Japanese from other areas travelled in bringing the virus with them.
This sparked a deadly second wave, far bigger than the first, and by April 14 the governor was forced to declare a second state of emergency.
Australia now has minimal new infections daily and like Hokkaido before it, is looking to open up.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy warned Australians on Sunday to keep up social distancing and hand hygiene as restrictions are eased.
‘If people don’t do it, we could get widespread community transmission again – that second wave that we’ve talked about,’ he told media on Sunday.
‘If you are going to a shopping centre to buy something, go and buy something, but don’t hang around the shopping centre for half-an-hour mingling for no purpose – go home.’
‘If you are arriving at a shopping centre and you find a crowd at an escalator not wanting to practise social distancing or crowding together, don’t go in – leave – come back later.’
‘If you see someone not practising social distancing or behaving irresponsibly, tell them. If a lift opens and you find it’s full of people, don’t get in.’
Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki (right) calling the first state of emergency on February 28 (pictured). After lifting it on March 19, he was forced to reinstate it on April 14
80-year-old Irish tourist Eileen Dipple (right) enjoys a Mother’s Day picnic with her son Tony and daughter in-law Jenny in Brisbane, Sunday, May 10, 2020
‘The more each individual Australian takes it upon themselves to behave in this new normal way, the more courageous governments are going to be about relaxing regulations,’ he said.
Medical experts have warned that it’s the coronavirus sufferers who show no symptoms that make face masks vital especially as lockdowns lift.
‘This makes it particularly difficult to suppress transmission in the community,’ said Ben Cowling, head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong.
‘But if everybody is wearing face masks, that would mean infected and asymptomatic people are also wearing masks. That could help to reduce the amount of virus which gets into the environment and potentially causes infections,’ he told the BBC.
Professor Cowling recently took part in a study on the effectiveness of face masks to prevent the spread of viruses similar to Sars-Cov-2, including a mild coronavirus and influenza.
The virus comes out of people’s mouth and nose in tiny droplets when they talk, laugh and breathe, hanging in the air for hours and falling onto surfaces where it is picked up by others.
A man wears a facemask in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday. Experts say the high number of asymptomatic spreaders who breathe the virus out from their mouths in tiny droplets means face masks should be used in public places – especially public transport – to stop transmission
Anti-lockdown protesters flock to the streets of Melbourne
Ten people have been arrested for breaching the Victorian government’s lockdown rules and clashing with police at a rally.
About a hundred people gathered at the steps of state parliament on Sunday to protest against 5G, vaccinations, Victoria’s lockdown restrictions and what they called the ‘coronavirus conspiracy’.
The protest turned unruly when police began separating protesters who were breaking social distancing and lockdown laws.
Footage on social media shows protesters clashing with Victoria Police, who confirmed 10 people, including two of the event’s organisers, were arrested.
The majority of those arrested were fined for failing to comply with the lockdown laws and will likely face a $1600 fine each while three offenders are expected to be charged with assaulting a police officer.
Protesters gather outside Parliament House in Melbourne on Sunday
Another protester is also expected to be charged for allegedly throwing a bottle at police.
All offenders were released pending summons.
A police spokeswoman confirmed capsicum sprayed spray was used during the arrest of one person and that the crowd dispersed shortly after.
A police officer, meanwhile, has been taken to hospital for what is believed to be a rib injury.
‘Police are continuing to investigate the events of today in order to identify other people who were in attendance,’ the spokeswoman said.
‘Once individuals are identified, we will be issuing them with fines and will consider any other enforcement options.’
Police officers detain a man as protesters gather outside Parliament House
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said a number of conspiracy theorists had contacted him, describing their views as ‘nonsense’.
‘It is complete nonsense. 5G has got nothing at all to do with coronavirus,’ he said in Canberra.
‘Similarly, I understand people have the right to protest, but they should not be breaching those social distancing rules and if they are, they should be held to account.’
Victoria has been in a state of emergency since March 16, with stage three restrictions designed to stop the spread of coronavirus in place.
Fanos Panayides, a speaker at an anti-lockdown rally, is arrested on the steps of Victoria’s state parliament
Under the restrictions, Victorians are only supposed to leave their homes for food and supplies, medical care and caregiving, exercise, and work or education.
Premier Daniel Andrews indicated on Friday he would be making a series of announcements regarding the lifting of restrictions throughout the week.
It came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed a plan for a gradual return to normality, but it is up to the states when to implement the measures.
ANU Associate Professor Kamalini Lokuge, an expert in public health responses to humanitarian crises said mass testing was key now to finding any new cases.
She also said Australia’s welfare safety net was crucial as it enabled people to undertake lockdown measures while still being able to feed their families.
Melbourne University epidemiologist James McCaw said the level of herd immunity needed to slow the virus was at least 50 percent.
Experts have previously warned that contracting the virus is no guarantee of immunity and it has recurred in people who have seemingly recovered.
Professor McCaw said Australia was not through the worst of it yet but at the very start of a long marathon.
‘This is a little bit like a marathon. It feels like we’re way into it but we’re only a kilometre in. That first kilometre is hard, I hope the next 41 aren’t so difficult but there’s a lot of kilometers to go,’ he told 60 Minutes.
Worldwide confirmed COVID-19 cases soared past 4.1 million with 280,564 dead, 2,388,352 sick and 1,445,980 recovered.
The US continued to have the largest number of cases at 1,347,318 with 80,040 dead from the disease which has been recently found to cause a clotting disorder in the blood.
Business urged to stagger hours for coronavirus lockdown easing
Businesses are being urged to stagger the times employees start and finish work ahead of a planned easing of COVID-19 restrictions over the coming months.
Authorities have begun planning for the resumption of normal trading with the Commonwealth and state governments readying for the associated influx of people on public transport.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday mapped out the national cabinet’s planned three-step easing of restrictions and set an aspirational July target for the return of most employees to their workplaces.
National Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says authorities will convene a meeting on Monday to discuss the gradual return of commuters to public transport.
He said increased numbers on buses and trains would create challenges around maintaining social distancing.
‘One of the most important things is to reduce the density,’ Professor Murphy said on Sunday.
‘Social distancing is not possible when you are crowded. We are very keen, for those who are working from home to continue working from home for the time being.’
Public transport agencies have already introduced COVID-19 safety measures, including increased cleaning of carriages, and Prof Murphy said hand sanitiser would need to be supplied for commuters.
He said the government was looking at ways to spread out passengers.
‘But we are also keen for employers and employees to look at staggered start and finish times,’ he said.
‘I think we have to think about a very different way of people may be starting at work, some starting at seven o’clock, some starting at 10 o’clock and people finishing at different times.
‘We have to think differently about that so there is a lot of planning going on in the meantime.
‘The message – go back to work. But if it works for you and your employer, continue to work from home.’