October 25

Time To Reopen Our Borders States Still Recording New Cases

Time To Reopen Our Borders States Still Recording New Cases

We’ve witnessed heated debate this week between state governments over the question of reopening borders among Australian states and territories. Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of New South Wales, is calling for interstate travel to be reopen. This will help Australia recover from the pandemic.

Other Australian premiers Mark McGowan (West Australian) and Annastacia Palaszczuk (Queensland) have opposed the reopening of borders at this stage. They believe that it risks new cases crossing state boundaries. An epidemiological perspective would suggest that it is safer to wait for two states to have eliminated disease before opening borders.

Each State Sets Its Own Rules Borders

It is important to have disease control strategies in place for pandemics at all levels, from the individual, family, community, state, and national. In an effort to decrease disease transmission, some states and territories have shut down interstate travel. The Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and NSW are the exceptions. However these states encourage people to delay non-essential travel.

The jurisdictions that have closed their borders impose their own regulations and exemptions, including the requirement for entrants who arrive to self-quarantine 14 days after arrival. Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, recently announced a three-step plan for recovery. The plan included the possibility of interstate recreational travel, but it was up to each territory and state to determine the timing.

Except for Western Australia, all states and territories are still in stage 1. They will not move to stage 2 before June. If we follow the three-step process, it is possible for states and territories to push for interstate travel.

Elimination Should Be A Green Light Borders

To eliminate disease, there must be no new cases in a given area. It is not necessary to stay in the same place for a set period of time. This usually depends on the time taken between the initial symptoms and being expose to the virus. COVID-19’s incubation time is between 1-14 days. Therefore, if no new cases are found within a 14-day period, it can said that a territory or state has eliminated COVID-19.

Research has shown that there is a 1 percent chance of someone getting ill and becoming infected beyond 14 days. To be 100% safe, it is prudent to prolong this time. One sensible way to approach the elimination of COVID-19 is to make it a 28-day period without new cases in any territory or state. This would double the incubation time. A state or territory could then open its borders to any other territory or state that has achieved disease elimination.

Jeanette Young, chief health officer for Queensland, has advocated this type of approach. What would happen if interstate travel is allowed in states that have yet to eliminate the disease? Infectious persons can cross into states or territories that have achieved elimination of disease and then reseed a new epidemic. Although the risk is small, the consequences can be serious.

This elimination approach could also be used with international borders (yesterday was the fourth consecutive day without any new cases in New Zealand), but this is still a long way away.

Are We Close?

Although Victoria and NSW continue not to see a lot of new cases, other states and territories are beginning to see the possibility of elimination

  • Since May 7, 2015 (15 days), South Australia has not had any new cases.
  • Since May 18, (four days), Western Australia has been free from cases
  • Tasmania’s last case was filed on May 15, (seven days).
  • The last cases in the Northern Territory or the ACT occurred on May 2, 20 days.

Although the data may differ depending on where they came from, I believe that no territory or state has eliminated COVID-19 to this date. As such, we are not yet at the point where we should relax current border restrictions.

There’s no question Australia is doing well. We must be vigilant with the current ease of restrictions which could lead to some new cases.

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Posted October 25, 2021 by admin in category "Uncategorized