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‘Fork in the road’: Australian policymakers have 48 hours to make critical coronavirus decision

Australia has 48 hours to make an crucial decision about how we respond to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Melbourne epidemiologist and public health medicine specialist.

Professor Tony Blakely from the University of Melbourne says two options are available to policymakers: eradication or flattening the curve.

“We have a fork in the road,” Mr Blakely told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

“If we go eradication that means really shutting things down now, and then you would shut the schools down, you would require everyone to stay home and would try and get rid of this virus out of Australia within six weeks or 12 weeks. Really ambitious moonshot-type stuff, but possibly worth a go.

“Once we got the virus out of the country we would function as a separate economy, a separate place down at the bottom of the south Pacific … nobody is coming in.

“It might be a bit late for Australia to do that but it’s a decision we need to make in the next 48 hours, and we need to be clear about it.”

The second option, flattening the curve, relies on a low level spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“If we’re not eradicating and we’re going to ‘flatten the curve’, then we actually do need people to slowly get infected at a manageable rate,” Mr Blakely said.

“The idea is that slowly people get infected in society at a rate that we can manage with our hospital services, and we slowly get the number of people up in society who have been affected up to about 60 per cent.”

Last night, state and federal approaches were targeting different models, fuelling public confusion.

Scott Morrison appears to be aiming to flatten the curve, while Victoria and NSW were last night taking an approach closer to eradication.

“These types of decisions need to be made quite urgently and then there must be good, clear communication to the public so that they understand what we’re trying to achieve,” Mr Blakely stressed.

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