NSW could be steps behind Vic's worsening COVID-19 crisis
New South Wales (NSW) may be just steps behind Victoria’s worsening COVID-19 crisis unless rigorous infection control measures are maintained, suggests the government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd.
In the last 24 hours Victoria has reported 384 new COVID-19 cases and 6 more deaths, adding to its state-leading total of 9049 cases and 83 deaths since the outbreak began in January 2020.
In light of this, the government says NSW is on “high alert” and that the next two weeks will be a vital period in terms of curbing the pandemic spread.
“The situation in NSW is very different to that of Victoria. Importantly, health authorities in NSW are currently attributing their cases to known outbreaks,” Prof. Kidd told Hospital + Healthcare.
“That said, NSW is on high alert and the next fortnight will be crucial. It is by no means inevitable, but everyone needs to keep doing what they have done so well to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Early research indicates that NSW may be better placed to weather the storm than Victoria, with factors like lower population density potentially minimising the rate of transmission.
However, Prof. Kidd said the ultimate determiner of a major outbreak will be human behaviour, with people’s willingness to follow health advice — like hand hygiene and social distancing — critical to keeping the R0 value (transmission rate) at an acceptable level.
“This virus has only been with us for just over six months and we are learning more about it every day. We know testing, tracing and isolating remain the best defences against its spread. Factors that impact this include density, climate and a city’s layout, but at its heart is behaviour,” said Prof. Kidd.
Decisions about whether or not to mandate mask wearing in NSW will be made at the state level — based on factors such as trends in the local epidemiology and an assessment of the added value of such a mandate.
“The current advice from NSW is to actively encourage people in the areas where we’re seeing community transmission to wear a mask, particularly in situations where physical distancing is not going to be possible,” said Prof. Kidd.
“Wearing a mask should also be considered for people who are at increased risk of COVID-19, people who have chronic health conditions or elderly people who, if they were infected, are at risk of severe illness.
“If face masks and coverings are used, they must be used appropriately, and along with the recommended other measures including staying home if unwell, hand and respiratory hygiene and physical distancing.
“The effectiveness of all these measures is reliant on a high level of compliance from the public, who are co-partners in the fight against COVID-19.”
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