Longer lockdowns needed to crush COVID-19, says ANU study

Ian Bushnell 9 July 2021 21
Sign warning Canberrans about new mask requirements

An ACT Government message to Canberrans about wearing a mask. Photo: Region Media.

Government should go hard and long to get the best value out of COVID-19 lockdowns, according to a new study from the Australian National University.

Research just published by a team of modellers, economists and public health experts from the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and the University of Melbourne highlights the hazards of relaxing before zero community transmission is likely.

Lead author Professor Quentin Grafton said the net benefits of lockdowns that were sufficiently long enough to get community transmission to zero far outweigh any short-term gains of relaxing lockdowns too soon.

“Our key insight was that lockdowns need to be long enough to crush the virus, and that effective, longer lockdowns benefit both public health and the economy,” Professor Grafton said.

He said the NSW Government was facing a crunch decision over extending its two-week lockdown of Greater Sydney.

“The NSW Government is under pressure to relax those restrictions, but decisions must be based on the facts on the ground such as the number of new cases, links to known chains of transmission, and the number of new cases not already in self-isolation,” he said.


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University of Melbourne Professor Tom Kompas said governments needed to rethink how COVID-19 outbreaks are managed.

“We’re a long way from a post-COVID world. If we think we can do away with periods of movement restrictions when uncontrolled outbreaks occur, we need to think again,” Professor Kompas said.

“The key point here is not to think about the economic costs over a period of a couple of weeks, large as they are, but rather to consider the costs over a period of months if community transmission continues.”

The paper also looked at the public health and economic questions facing Australia and evaluated the costs and benefits of restrictions that result in zero community transmission of COVID-19.

Professor Grafton said the results supported strategies that go hard against COVID-19 infections and get to zero community transmission.

“This is especially the case now with this Delta variant and Australia’s currently low vaccination level,” Professor Grafton said.

“To ensure compliance and to help those who are doing it tough, we need sufficient levels of financial support for the people who are most affected by lockdowns,” he said.

Epidemiological modelling of the health and economic effects of COVID-19 control in Australia’s second wave was published in the Journal of Public Health.


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21 Responses to Longer lockdowns needed to crush COVID-19, says ANU study
HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:30 pm 07 Jul 21

The paper also touches on suppression, which is just as well – elimination has run into reality in south-western Sydney and unpalatable as that may seem to many, it’s the more likely future.

One of the more confronting aspects of doubling down on the elimination approach apparently preferred by the authors is that it would be a very good way of killing off much of what is left of the small businesses which employ a lot of students, including all those overseas students who universities are desperate to get back into the country in very large numbers. These businesses have thus far been treated as human shields by Australian governments, often under the brazenly dishonest claim that “we’re all in this together”, and keeping them alive would take far more support than is now on offer – funding for that might mean some serious sacrifices for people who have thus far been financially untouched by the response to the virus.

Acton Acton 5:24 pm 07 Jul 21

You can go into a complete lockdown for a week, a month, a year or ten years but you cannot hide from a virus forever. After coming out of any period of lockdown you will be exposed to a flu like virus from someone who has had it already and got over it. Maybe a local. Maybe a visiting foreigner. Even those who cower behind masks or under their beds or behind castle walls will eventually have to come out.. The longer you hide, the more isolated you are and the less immunity you have. Just ask the Aztecs and the Incas or anyine else from a population that fails to gain natural or vaccinated immunity from a disease that will find a way through masks, borders and castle walls.

Timmy Holness Timmy Holness 8:07 am 07 Jul 21

Let’s just focus on the vaccines as that is definitely part of the answer to not get lock downs

Maya123 Maya123 10:03 pm 06 Jul 21

A sensible article.

M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 6:07 pm 06 Jul 21

Lockdowns work, as Victoria has demonstrated time and time and time again.

Jay Annabel Jay Annabel 5:21 pm 06 Jul 21

What crap. Covid can't be 'crushed', just the same as many other infectious diseases can't be 'crushed'. If it was possible to eliminate covid from Australia, we would've achieved it by now. This is just a recipe for more pain and more loss. Get the jab, open up, get on with it.

Ol L Ol L 5:04 pm 06 Jul 21

I just wish people would shut up about their possible overseas trips. Holiday here instead and save some lives.

Angela Thomas Angela Thomas 3:46 pm 06 Jul 21

We are never going to be free of Covid, it’ll be the first of many such Viruses that we will have to learn to live with.

    Kylee Taylor Kylee Taylor 4:06 pm 06 Jul 21

    Angela Thomas we got rid of small pox, no reason why we couldn’t get rid of it (except non compliance with basic instructions)

    Jay Annabel Jay Annabel 5:22 pm 06 Jul 21

    Kylee Taylor the common cold is a coronavirus and we've never succeeded in getting rid of that. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/about-coronaviruses

    Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 6:09 pm 06 Jul 21

    Jay Annabel we've never tried to get rid of the common cold. We've basically decided that the economic advantage of staying open and letting it spread is greater.

    This study argues the opposite in the case of covid, the better economic outcome comes from shutting down hard to avoid outbreaks.

    .

    And we can do it. Who do you know who died from ebola? No one, because we quarantine that and it doesn't spread.

MERC600 MERC600 3:40 pm 06 Jul 21

“”the hazards of relaxing before zero community transmission is likely.””
So do they wish us to continue living the way we do now, until zero community transmission is likely.??

In 2019 Influenza caused 705 deaths in Australia, with 10 of those happening here in the ACT. Yet life went on. No border closures, masks, footballers hiding under beds.

We need a way out of this and quick. SA won’t allow me in because we are wearing masks due to Sydney goings on. But we have no cases ?

Our puritanical health medicos need to bite the bullet and realise that ,like their dealing with influenza, life has to go on.

    Acton Acton 5:29 pm 07 Jul 21

    We have given too much power to the nanny state and now the chief nannies think we need to be protected from sniffles.

Eric Tenthorey Eric Tenthorey 12:15 pm 06 Jul 21

Dumb. If you step back and look at Australia in the global context, there are essentially zero cases. How much lower can u go? Super dumb headline

    Jay Kay Jay Kay 1:31 pm 06 Jul 21

    Eric Tenthorey I wonder why we have almost zero cases. 🤣

    Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 6:05 pm 06 Jul 21

    Eric Tenthorey essentially zero? We had actually zero, then we had one, then there was a party, and some people went shopping. Now we are adding more than 30 new cases every day.

    The whole world had exactly zero cases two years ago, and now millions of people are dead.

    Essentially zero, indeed.

chewy14 chewy14 11:55 am 06 Jul 21

And most people won’t read past the headline here to see how it is taken out of context for a far more complex set of modelling outcomes.

Outcomes that have clear limitations for the claims made around lockdowns, particularly for longer term economic outcomes and when considering an ever increasing vaccinated population, especially so in the high risk categories.

Rosalind Turner Rosalind Turner 11:24 am 06 Jul 21

A lockdown only works if people do what they are supposed to do - stay still, don't travel, test if feeling ill, and isolate. Unfortunately the 1-2% who think they are above all of these safeguards will continue to ruin it for the rest of us.

    Rhi Campbell Rhi Campbell 5:07 pm 06 Jul 21

    Rosalind Turner lockdowns aren't a sustainable solution. If they were, why don't we use them every time we get a flu outbreak? Or gastro? Or chickenpox, measles or any other highly infectious disease that can land significant numbers of vulnerable people in hospital?

    Rosalind Turner Rosalind Turner 5:15 pm 06 Jul 21

    Rhi Campbell I know nursing homes use an isolation method when they have gastro cases ... but that's a demographic that can be contained easily. Any of the others mentioned already have a high vaccination rate ... once we get our vaccination rate for covid above an acceptable level - whatever they determine that level to be - I'm sure we'll see an end to lockdowns. We're just not there yet.

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