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Coronavirus: A clear message for people who say ‘Yeah but the flu is worse’

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Editor’s note: This interview and article were published on March 12

Victoria’s chief health officer has a clear message for those eager to compare the world’s coronavirus outbreak to influenza.


As COVID-19 spreads across the world, many people — some health experts, many not — have been eager to point out that more people died of influenza last year without the same level of public concern or media coverage.

Neil Mitchell asked chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton if COVID-19 is worse than the flu.

“Unequivocally,” he responded. “Because it kills a really significant proportion of the vulnerable population.

“For those who are over 65, it gets more deadly the older you are. It causes very serious illness.

“For a lot of people, including those under 30 or 40, it might look like the flu.

“But at a population level, it’s going to kill a lot more people than the flu if people get infected.

“So we really shouldn’t make the same comparison, it is much more deadly than the flu.”

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Meanwhile, Dr Sutton expects a “majority” of Victorians work from home in coming weeks.

“Were making preparations for the majority of people working from home reasonably soon,” he said.

“We don’t know when the trigger needs to be pulled but obviously we’ve flagged that that’s our expectation, and that there’ll be significant disruption as a result of it.

“It’s a huge call … but we’re heading in that direction.”