An epidemiologist has warned Victoria could be facing up to two years in isolation from the rest of Australia if it doesn't control the outbreak soon.
Victoria could face up to two years in isolation from the rest of the country if it doesn't bring its Covid-19 outbreak under control, one epidemiologist has warned.
Speaking to the ABC on Wednesday, Professor Tony Blakely said Australia is facing a "real dilemma" with the current coronavirus situation.
He said six out of eight territories have achieved elimination "by accident", meaning they might not open their borders to Victoria or NSW residents until the latter states can achieve the same.
"Why would they let anybody in if there's enough of a risk that they are going to bring the virus?" Blakely said.
"So let's assume that Victoria doesn't get rid of the virus … It essentially means Victoria is going to have to function in isolation from the rest of Australia until such time as we get a vaccine, assuming the other states don't want the virus back in. If I was in the (other) states, I wouldn't want the virus back in."
While many countries are racing to develop a vaccine, it could still be years before one is available to the public.
Blakely said if Victoria doesn't pursue an elimination strategy, the only other option is forcing the other states to "let the virus back in and we move to the yo-yo common denominator".
He said introducing a hard lockdown in Victoria would be for one of two reasons.
"One is that you are actually going for elimination which I'm still advocating for because that's the better strategy in the medium to long-term, 18 months, two years, it would be better to be in that state," he said.
"The other reason is that if the ICU capacity or health services were under threat. We are not at that level yet; it would be 2500 cases a day before ICU would be near to that number. It's not being used in Victoria yet."
Victoria confirmed a record 484 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, with Premier Daniel Andrews and chief health officer Brett Sutton saying the state "can't rule out" a New Zealand-style lockdown.
"If we were to move to a further stage of restrictions where other movement was limited – and I did make some comments the other day about where you might be able to go shopping, how many people might be able to leave the house at any one time – just to give you a couple of examples – will that stop people going to work that are going to work now? No," Andrews said.
"So the key factor here – we can't rule those measures out – but, at this stage, the key factor here that's the driving the numbers and driving our challenge is people that are sick but not getting tested."
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said "everything is under consideration" – including a lockdown like the one New Zealand imposed to eliminate Covid-19 – though he mentioned Victoria has much higher community transmission than New Zealand did at the height of its outbreak.
"To go to a particular model of lockdown that worked for one country at one point in time is not the solution," Sutton said.
"We have to understand what the dynamics of transmission are in Victoria at this point in time. It may well be that it's an awful impost on the economy and on people's lives with no material benefit if we go to a New Zealand-style lockdown.
"We have to understand where the transmission's occurring and what measures will be most effective in reducing it."