A plea for urgent lockdown

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I hope you’re well.

We’re all dealing with frustrating and exhausting challenges at the moment. I’ve been posting lots of positive thoughts to try to balance the overwhelming influx of grim news, but right now it seems we are at a critical juncture.

We’ve cancelled all the good stuff: the arts, sports, travel, parties, eating out, events, weddings, the arts (yes I mentioned that twice because it is the most important loss to me and my family right now). It’s hard, but necessary.

Cancelling the good stuff without taking other measures to combat COVID-19 is very frustrating.

I know not everyone will agree, and that there are a range of opinions and views, but many of us feel we need to be doing more, right now.

Please read below the thoughts of one Flemington resident, Louise Donn. I‘m grateful to Louise for sharing her family’s concerns about the likely impact of COVID-19 and the urgent necessity for Australians to take this seriously.

Take care out there.

Rose

From Louise Donn, Flemington resident

Dear Moonee Valley residents,

For three days now, my family and I have been in lockdown. We are not sick, or particularly worried about contracting the Coronavirus ourselves, but we do not want to unknowingly catch and spread it to those who are more vulnerable.

As we know, the virus spreads exponentially. This means that delaying a lockdown by even a few days or a week will have a huge and tragic impact on the number of cases and fatalities.

Countries that have reacted quickly have been able to drastically reduce the fatality rate. The Tomas Pueyo article linked below [1] shows that countries who have locked down quickly (like South Korea and most provinces in China) have experienced fatality rates of 0.5-0.9%.

In countries where the reaction has been slower and the hospitals have become overwhelmed (like Italy), the fatality rate is 3-5%. To quote the article, “Countries that act fast can reduce the number of deaths by a factor of ten.”

My father-in-law is a systems analyst and his modelling suggests that even if we lockdown now, it could overwhelm Australian hospitals. The number of cases at the peak could run into the hundreds of thousands, perhaps even a million or more. The longer we wait to lock down, the higher the peak will be and the more deaths.

According to a study published by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control [2], 5% of people who contract the virus require intensive case. Australia currently has only a few thousand ICU beds in the country, and most of these beds are already in use with the usual load of patients.

We do not want to be like Italy, where the government/society took too long to respond, now people are dying in hospital corridors and the elderly are being refused treatment. I don’t want to be alarmist, but that is what is at stake.

Twenty to sixty percent of the Australian population will contract the virus according to Brendan Murphy, the Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government. This is 5 to 15 million Australians.

Professor Murphy also says Australia is expecting a 1% death rate, which would mean an alarming 50,000 to 150,000 deaths in Australia. Our fear is that if we act too slowly, Australia’s death rate could be more like 3-5% like it is in Italy.

A 5% death rate would mean 250,000 to 750,000 deaths, a catastrophic outcome and one that would leave almost every Australian devastated by losses of family and friends.

It is especially important for people who are more vulnerable to lock down immediately and avoid putting themselves at risk. My husband and I have been contacting our parents and older people (over 60) that we know and advising them to self-isolate, especially if they have an underlying health condition.

If you contract COVID-19 as an 80+ year old, advice from Imperial College to Downing Street in the UK [3] predicts a 9.3% fatality rate.

coronavirus imperial college

According to a study published by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control [2], the fatality rate is substantially increased in those that have existing conditions, including cardiovascular disease (10.5% overall fatality rate), diabetes (7.3%), chronic respiratory disease (6.3%), hypertension (6.0%) and cancer (5.6%). People who have a combination of being in older age groups and existing conditions have an amplified level of risk.

On my last day in the community I encountered so many examples of denial- people telling checkout operators loudly that it is all fear-mongering by the government and fake news by the media. We need to start taking this very seriously because complacency and apathy and denial literally put people’s lives at risk.

Please, do what you can to protect yourselves and those at greater risk. If you are in a position to self-isolate, please do so immediately and warn those who are more vulnerable to do the same.

I know not everyone is in a position to work from home yet- I think of my fellow teachers and my heart goes out to you. But if you can, I encourage you to do so. Slowing down the spread of this virus will flatten the curve, support the hospitals to cope and save lives.

I would like to add that this does not mean hoarding groceries!! Even in a lockdown, you can continue to order online or visit the supermarkets.

References

  1. Tomas Pueyo’s in medium about the imperative to react quickly: https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca
  2. Chinese Centre for Disease Control study citing fatality rates by pre-existing condition and rates of intensive care: http://weekly.chinacdc.cn/en/article/id/e53946e2-c6c4-41e9-9a9b-fea8db1a8f51
  3. Imperial College estimates of fatality rates by age (also see summary in tweet below from Bevan Shields of the Sydney Morning Herald): https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/195217/coronavirus-fatality-rate-estimated-imperial-scientists/

 

2 thoughts on “A plea for urgent lockdown

  1. There was a fabulous letter in the Age today Sat 21 Mar
    Saying …Now is the time to stop playing with your phone and all those apps.
    Instead ring friends and acquaintances , stay in touch, share stuff.
    And then …Ring them again

    Like

  2. In my post I refer to the modelling results of my father-in-law, Bill Grace. These have now been published on his website. Please click on the included link to see them in full.

    Click to access Corona-virus-in-Australia.pdf

    To quote Bill, “The results of the simulations underline the messages of the medical experts about the importance of behavioural measures in limiting the outbreak.”

    Today it was announced by Premier Daniel Andrews that our state will be shutting down all non-essential activity from this Tuesday 24th March (aka beginning a “lockdown”). I know I speak for many when I say that this has come as a huge relief. As Bill says in his article, “as difficult as isolating ourselves will be in the coming months, it is essential that all of us do everything we can to avoid new infections”. Any further delay would have set us on a very dark path indeed.

    Like

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