The uneven adoption of COVID-19 vaccines in cities and regions means Australia’s public health measures are expected to continue until next year, a leading epidemiologist predicting the country will achieve control tolerable disease by early 2022.
Writing in Public Health Research & Practice, a peer-reviewed journal of the Sax Institute, Professor Catherine Bennett, Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, warns against any expectation of an immediate return to life normal once the 70% and 80% immunization targets are met. meet. She says the concern will be inconsistent vaccine uptake between states and communities, which will need to be taken into account when assessing local public health responses.
With the arrival of the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus, “we are now drawn into the most compelling global experiment to find a viable, ethical and economically sustainable approach to controlling the incidence of disease and hospitalizations,” writes the Professor Bennett.
The easing is likely to be gradual and public health measures of any kind will continue to be needed wherever community transmission persists, until we have developed what is needed to contain epidemics. But if we can control hospitalizations, we can expect a measured and gradual opening that allows for several disease control mechanisms to be adjusted as needed, Professor Bennett said.
Masks indoors will be the last precaution and large gatherings the last to return, although big things could happen sooner if we follow other countries’ path and implement vaccine passports.
Professor Bennett says testing, tracing and isolation must adapt in response to more infections and when we no longer need to identify every case once we are in suppression mode. In this regard, NSW is leading the way for all states as they shift focus under the burden of higher caseloads.
“The virus is in the community, the COVID-19 transition has started, and we are on track to live with the virus, but control the disease, from the first quarter of 2022,” she concludes.
The latest issue of Public Health Research & Practice also features an article on suicide risk during pandemics. While the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports no increase in suicides during the current COVID-19 pandemic, Connor Brenna of the University of Toronto and others warn in this article that we could be in a period of “honeymoon” and that there could be increased risks ahead. The authors of the study advocate the use of virtual suicide risk assessment tools, including telemedicine and telephone applications.
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