Australia is at its highest risk of experiencing a Covid-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic more than a year ago, a leading epidemiologist has warned in a bleak prediction.
Professor James McCaw, an epidemiologist and mathematical biologist with the University of Melbourne, said the "virus will win" as coronavirus cases are expected to escape through quarantine hotels on a monthly basis.
"We will expect incursions at least once a month and more often. And while we mix more socially, the chance of one of those taking hold goes up very quickly," he said, Nine Newspapers reported.
Despite this scary outlook – largely brought about by the more contagious B117 strain first detected in Britain – McCaw said vaccination against the virus would prevent an outbreak from having a "disastrous impact".
McCaw, who leads a research team providing coronavirus modelling to the Federal Government, said it was "absolutely inevitable" the virus would spread as Australians mix more socially.
"The [B117] strain is more transmissible and it is more severe, and the severity comes to lower age groups," he added.
McCaw said vaccinations were the "game-changer" and would help to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.
"The virus will win. But it won't have a devastating impact if we are vaccinated," he said.
McCaw said there needed to be improvements to Australia's quarantine hotel system but a wide take-up of vaccinations would also be needed to see a significant improvement.
"It would be unwise to think that the risk of this virus has gone once we have vaccinated [just] the vulnerable," he said.
"Especially given that we would expect the B117 variant to come in. We could easily have a situation where our hospital system was overwhelmed with lots and lots of sick young adults."
This week, NSW's Health Covid-19 surveillance report revealed that six overseas travellers who reported they were fully vaccinated tested positive for the virus while in hotel quarantine.
It said the six cases in quarantine hotels tested positive over four weeks ending on May 1, despite reporting they were vaccinated before arriving in Australia.
NSW Health noted all six might have contracted the potentially deadly virus before their vaccination became fully effective.
A total of 2.5 million Australians have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to Federal Government figures.
However, this falls well below the government's target of having the jab administered to four million adults by the end of March.
Last month, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan told a press conference the situation was "very real", the pandemic "will not be going away this year" and expressed his frustration with the Federal Government at its previous refusal to cut international arrivals into WA to "crush" the spread of Covid-19 – something he'd been requesting for a month.
"Unfortunately, this pandemic will not be going away this year," McGowan said.
"And I need to do everything possible to keep our states safe and prevent community transmission.
"The situation for us right now remains very real. The new case of community transmission highlights how vital this temporary lockdown is.
"We need to give our contact tracers the best chance possible at identifying where these positive cases went and who may have been exposed."