Modelling offers hope that Omicron’s worst may be over sooner than expected

Ian Bushnell 12 January 2022 28
Dave peffer

CHS CEO Dave Peffer: scenarios “give us a level of confidence we aren’t too far from seeing a peak”. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

There is cautious optimism that the ACT’s Omicron-driven COVID-19 surge may be close to peaking, with new internal Canberra Health Services modelling showing the current outbreak may subside sooner than expected.

In an email sent to hospital staff yesterday (11 January) and sighted by Region Media, CHS CEO Dave Peffer outlines three scenarios. The most likely one has new cases peaking on 17 January and the number of COVID patients in hospital peaking three days later on 20 January.

Health officials had believed that the ACT was a few weeks behind NSW, where the Omicron outbreak is tipped to peak in mid-January, although some believe it may have already done so.

But now the modelling, used to plan for hospital capacity, points to the current outbreak giving way before the end of the month, and the number of people in hospital peaking at just under 100, four times the current load but manageable without resorting to activating the Garran Surge Centre, according to hospital sources.


READ ALSO: ACT records 1078 new COVID cases and hospitalisations fall, but testing down


Today there are 23 patients in hospital with COVID, down from 28 yesterday, but the figures are expected to jump around.

The best-case scenario has new cases peaking yesterday (11 January) and hospitalisations three days later, while the worst-case has cases peaking on 21 January and hospitalisations on 27 January.

Both of these are considered possible but unlikely.

Mr Peffer warns there are unknown factors such as the level of underreporting that may upset the modelling, but the scenarios suggest there is light at the end of the tunnel for stretched hospital staff, struggling businesses and the Canberra community.

“They’re based on data we have at this point, the experiences we’re seeing locally and overseas, and give us a level of confidence we aren’t too far from seeing a peak in cases and hospitalisations,” he said.

According to sources, CHS modelling has been quite accurate so far.

Mr Peffer told staff that managing the workload will be tough going, but the recent changes to patient cohorting will help.

“Our planning for this potential demand won’t stop – we’ll continue to make changes within our health services on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, to sustainably respond to the patients we see presenting,” he said.

A Rapid Antigen Test. Results can now be submitted online as the ACT transitions to this form of testing. Photo: File.

The issue of underreporting should be resolved with the announcement today that people will be able to notify their Rapid Antigen Test results online as part of a transition to that form of testing.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said a Check In CBR push notification would be sent today to users to let them know a reporting form on the ACT COVID-19 website is now live.

He said the change would provide more accurate data, better connect people with care and ease the pressure on testing centre queues as RATs become more available.

“We are working to secure a greater supply of tests for the ACT, including the purchase of one million test kits in partnership with NSW and our own orders,” Mr Barr said.

Acting Health Minister Chris Steel said the ACT would not be following NSW’s move to hit people with $1000 fines if they fail to report their RAT results.

He said those who have already had taken a rapid test should submit their results to ACT Health.


READ ALSO: How to care for someone with COVID-19 at home


The government was still working on how to distribute RATs, but Mr Steel said some would be handed out at testing centres.

A sign of the increasing pressures on the health system was today’s announcement that the Central Health Intake (CHI) phone line used to book some services at community health centres and outpatient clinics will be closed temporarily from tomorrow (13 January).

CHS says the change is temporary so staff can be redeployed to support the team caring for people recovering at home with the virus.

Nurses will only be available to process urgent referrals from GPs, and people are being advised to speak to their GP if an urgent referral is needed, or cancel an appointment online.

Like many sectors, the health system is managing the challenge of staff falling ill or needing to isolate.


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28 Responses to Modelling offers hope that Omicron’s worst may be over sooner than expected
Chris Olsen Chris Olsen 11:01 pm 13 Jan 22

Just wait until school goes back…..

Laurie Plant Laurie Plant 5:41 pm 13 Jan 22

How can the peak be next week with not many cases

Frank Calipari Frank Calipari 4:43 pm 13 Jan 22

If we all just accept that we are going to get it then it’s going to be a better future

    Jenny Graves Jenny Graves 4:56 pm 13 Jan 22

    Frank Calipari not for those who get seriously ill, I'm afraid.

    Frank Calipari Frank Calipari 5:07 pm 13 Jan 22

    Jenny Graves

    Just like any virus Jenny some will be affected more than others.

    Have you or anyone in you family or close friends you see regularly for omicron?

    If yes, any fatalities?

    If no, how do you know they haven’t had it?

    Jenny Graves Jenny Graves 5:22 pm 13 Jan 22

    Frank Calipari I know it's mild in a lot of people, but at the moment the hospitalisation numbers are rising, as are the numbers in ICU, which suggests that some people are getting pretty sick with it, and we have had some deaths, even in young people with no known health conditions.

    It's easy to be flippant about it until you or someone close to you gets really ill.

    Frank Calipari Frank Calipari 5:28 pm 13 Jan 22

    Jenny Graves

    So you don’t want to answer questions that are actually relevant?

    Talking about you, your family, your close contact friends not people you don’t know anything about and quoting about hypothetical icu ………

    Claire Lenehan Claire Lenehan 8:18 am 15 Jan 22

    Frank Calipari It's not a hypthetical ICU. There are people in there. Good to know you're ok with people dying as long as you don't know them.

    Frank Calipari Frank Calipari 8:26 am 15 Jan 22

    Claire Lenehan

    You are another doom & gloom minded person.

    Have you had any life threatening affects from this virus ?

    Do you know for certain whether you’ve even had or not contracted the virus?

    Couple of easy questions for you to respond & see if you & Jenny Graves are from the same bunker.

Sue Jameson Sue Jameson 12:15 pm 13 Jan 22

There is massive under-reporting of cases because of lack of testing supplies. Predictions can only be be based on real data!

Acton Acton 7:16 am 13 Jan 22

The temptation to form premature theories based on insufficient data and faulty modelling and to then proffer poor advice is the bane of the medical profession.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:36 am 13 Jan 22

    There’s actually plenty of data available and the modelling isn’t “faulty”.

    The main problem is that when modelling scenarios are presented in the media (usually as clickbait or sensationalism), most people don’t know how modelling actually works and what it’s used for.

    Far too many people think these numbers are forecasts or predictions, when they are not. The modellers are typically giving a range of scenarios based on different underlying variables. These scenarios can then be used for planning purposes to achieve better overall outcomes.

    The modelling on Covid has typically been very good but people think the models weren’t “accurate”, almost exclusively because governments actually responded to the scenarios (through health controls, restrictions etc), which change the underlying assumptions in the models.

    Acton Acton 3:19 pm 13 Jan 22

    I disagree. GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. Modelling is proven faulty when outcomes predicted by the model fail to match reality. A model can produce a range of scenarios depending on data chosen, which can be omitted or manipulated depending on the desired outcome. For example, if the desire is to show high (or low) interest rates, or a high (or low) probability of an astroid hit, or high (or low) deaths from covid, one changes the data and assumptions used in the model. Elements within the media sensationalise, seek out dire theories and predictions and present worst case scenarios to spread alarm. So too do those with their own self-serving agendas. Politicans are no less guilty of persuing their own interests. There are always models to support worst case scenarios and always people who can be found to promote them. Some early models predicted wildly inaccurate death rates, which failed to eventuate not because action was taken, but because the predictions were simply wrong. The result of using faulty models are premature theories, poor advice, bad decisions, over-reactions, panic,s lock-downs, masks, sign-ins, travel restrictions, job loses, economic disruption, mandatory impositions… The misinterpretation of data and misuse of models achieves worse outcomes.
    “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.” From ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’ by Charles Mackay (1841), about the regular outbreaks of mass hysteria, manias and panics.
    Behaviour is based on models of particular form, whether generated by computer or the mind. All models should be tempered by rational thought and common sence.

    phydeaux phydeaux 5:42 pm 13 Jan 22

    “All models should be tempered by rational thought and common sence [sic].”

    So by tautology, you demonstrate that you have no relevant knowledge about modelling.

    The rest of the rant we can safely discard.

    chewy14 chewy14 5:43 pm 13 Jan 22

    “Modelling is proven faulty when outcomes predicted by the model fail to match reality”

    This is literally the type of thinking that I pointed out was wrong and explained why.

    The modelled scenarios are not forecasts or predictions and they don’t exist in isolation of any actions that individuals or the government might take to shift the outcomes.

    “A model can produce a range of scenarios depending on data chosen, which can be omitted or manipulated depending on the desired outcome”

    Which hasn’t remotely happened here with the modelling the government has been relying on, although I won’t say that certain lobby groups haven’t tried this on to push an agenda.

    “Some early models predicted wildly inaccurate death rates, which failed to eventuate not because action was taken, but because the predictions were simply wrong”

    And some early models were very accurate and even the ones that initially had problems were useful and were updated over time to better reflect reality. Which is exactly what they should do.

    Based on your previous comments and the one above, it seems you are less worried about the usefulness and accuracy of the models and more around the fact that they didn’t fit your predetermined ideological position on what you “wanted” them to say.

    Which is mighty ironic.

Lynn Nicholas Lynn Nicholas 6:35 am 13 Jan 22

In my opinion this is a load of nonsense.

*People can’t get a RAT

*People can’t self report if they can’t self test

*How can you predict a peak when you don’t have the correct number of infections

Christian Brown Christian Brown 10:32 pm 12 Jan 22

Australian Hospitals At Breaking Point $57 Billion funding cut https://theplacardchristianbrown.substack.com/p/opinion-australian-hospitals-at-breaking

Carin Covid Carin Covid 9:04 pm 12 Jan 22

Hope so. Trying to avoid it.

Steve Jones Steve Jones 8:18 pm 12 Jan 22

Modelling?? So let the computer do the calculations??

Invis.Abilities Invis.Abilities 7:42 pm 12 Jan 22

It’s not just Omicron circulating and modeling based on school holidays while so many work from home with underreported cases is unrealistic.

Nicole McGuire Nicole McGuire 7:37 pm 12 Jan 22

Delusional! They have lost data and their services are not working. Typical ACT Govt kidding themselves. My COVID positive mother has been in limbo for days despite constant contact. Epic fail!

    Lynn Nicholas Lynn Nicholas 6:38 am 13 Jan 22

    Nicole McGuire I think ACT Govt did an excellent job through the Delta crisis but have certainly thrown the towel in with Omicron.

    I note too that the local Libs are missing in action throughout all of this except for a brief complaint session over businesses not opening up soon enough at the end of last year.

Kate Cuthbert Kate Cuthbert 6:08 pm 12 Jan 22

Hope they've taken all the people still returning/yet to return from holidays into account 🤔

    Margaret Struthers Margaret Struthers 6:16 pm 12 Jan 22

    Kate Cuthbert and all the people attending the Summernats who may have been spreading it as well.

    Belinda Konz Belinda Konz 6:35 pm 12 Jan 22

    Kate Cuthbert of course they haven't - the figures look better that way 🙄

    Stas Idowu Stas Idowu 7:32 pm 12 Jan 22

    Kate Cuthbert they haven't even accounted for RAT positives either

    Steve Ulr Steve Ulr 7:52 pm 12 Jan 22

    Stas Idowu exactly. Lots of hidden +ves due to testing capacity and availability limits exceeded. And don’t forget the patience of people in lines as well.

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