PM on how we are flattening the curve


UPDATE: Secretive modelling behind Australia's economically devastating coronavirus lockdown strategy is set to be released today, after 15 people died in a horror 72 hours.

The national cabinet of federal, state and territory leaders will meet to discuss the way forward on Tuesday, with several days of slowing infection numbers leaving health officials cautiously optimistic - but still warning that it could be months before restrictions are lifted.

"We seem to have successfully flattened the curve at the moment, so whether we indeed will get a peak is hard to know," deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly told reporters in Canberra on Monday. "Maybe we are there already. I don't believe so."

There are now nearly 6000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia, with 2686 in New South Wales, 1191 in Victoria, 934 in Queensland, 460 in Western Australia, 411 in South Australia, 96 in the Australian Capital Territory, 89 in Tasmania and 28 in the Northern Territory.

The national death toll stands at 45 - four in WA, four in Queensland, 21 in NSW, 11 in Victoria, two in Tasmania, two in the ACT and one in SA - after 15 deaths in the last three days. Thirteen of the total deaths were passengers on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, while six were from the Dorothy Henderson Lodge nursing home in Sydney.


Modelling slides brought out

Prof Murphy says the "highly technical" modelling work will be released later today and those with "scientific brains" can pick through it.

"It's important to understand these models are highly theoretical, they're not actual predictions," he said.

He's showing the first slide, which describes an "uncontrolled pandemic" scenario. "This is where you let the virus spread, you do nothing, and treat people as they seek medical attention," he said.

"This is a horrendous scenario. You would see a daily demand for ICU beds of 30,000-plus. If you had this highly artificial, very unlikely outbreak, you couldn't meet demand."

The second slide shows what would happen in that scenario but with measures taken to flatten the curve, including quarantine, isolation and social distancing.

"You can see that you very significantly drop the peak, extend the theoretical outbreak," he said.

In the unmitigated scenario only about 15 per cent of people who need ICU beds could get them.


'We cannot relax restrictions'

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says the risk of community transmission is very real and "that is why we cannot relax what we've been doing".

"The thing that worries us most of all is the more than 500 people who have acquired this virus from someone in the community that doesn't know they've had it," he said.

"We have seen some very impressive reductions in growth of transmission of COVID-19 but if we in any way lost that rigour the Australian community has embraced, particularly over Easter, it can all come undone. We've seen what this virus can do on a cruise ship, a wedding, we've got to maintain that vigilance and all of the practices we've embraced in recent weeks."


A word on modelling

Scott Morrison says the modelling will be released later today, but he's stressing a few caveats.

"You will have what we have, this is the modelling work available to the government, it is the full complement of what we have available to us," he said.

"The modelling work is theoretical. It is not based on Australian case data and does not model Australian responses. The modelling does not predict what will happen in Australia. It does not tell you how many Australians will contract the virus or how many may succumb, or how long it will last in Australia."

Mr Morrison says the modelling is based on international data, first from China and later from other countries. He says it "proves up the theory" of flattening the curve.

"It confirms based on that international data that by taking the measures we're taking, you can make a difference and indeed that is what we're experiencing here in Australia. We are on the right track."


EARLIER: Two Australian health workers have tested positive for coronavirus as the hospital they work in desperately tries to track down everyone they've recently had contact with.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Lawler confirmed overnight that two staff members from Tasmania's West Regional Hospital have contracted the virus. It takes the total number of employees confirmed to have the virus to five. An inpatient has also previously tested positive.

An Outbreak Management Team is already identifying and contacting any person who has had close contact with either of these two staff and will ensure necessary actions are taken, Prof Lawler said in a written statement.

"If any staff member or patient is determined to be a close contact of these cases, they will be contacted and advised of what action they need to take.

"While it may be necessary for other staff and patients to be tested for coronavirus, this will occur as investigations progress.

"We will assess and test any staff member who is symptomatic and any patient who is symptomatic and determined to be at risk of coronavirus.

"We acknowledge the current situation is creating concern, both for staff and for the community.

"We are taking every action in accordance with best advice to ensure possible contacts are identified as quickly as possible.

"The safety of our patients and our dedicated staff remain our highest priority, and there may be some disruption to normal hospital operations while our investigation continues.

The Tasmanian Health Service last night closed the NWRH and the Mersey Community Hospital to visitors, with exceptions only to be granted on compassionate grounds.

Ambulance Tasmania will transport any emergency patients from the Devonport region to Launceston General Hospital, as a temporary measure to reduce the workload on the NWRH whilst staff are managing the current outbreak, the statement read.

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