Victoria’s chief health officer has indicated Australia’s harsh international border closure isn’t the answer to keeping Covid out and that it would be more practical to let the virus run through the community.
Professor Brett Sutton attended an event last month where he was filmed stating Australians would need to accept the reality of coronavirus to avoid becoming a hermit nation.
The audio recordings, which were obtained by The Age, suggest Professor Sutton has joined a chorus of many voices urging the Prime Minister to reconsider keeping Australian borders closed until at least mid-2022.
‘We need to somehow communicate to the public that we’ve gotten to a place of complacency because we’ve driven transmission to zero,’ he said.
‘But, we will face newly emerging transmission, and a critical juncture where we need to make a call on letting it run.’
Professor Brett Sutton suggested ‘letting Covid run’ through the community after all adults have been offered a vaccination
Victoria’s chief health officer indicated Australia’s harsh international border closure isn’t the answer to keeping Covid out of the nation and that it would be more practical to let the virus run through the community (pictured people lining up to check in for a flight from Sydney Airport)
Professor Sutton suggested the best time to ‘let Covid run’ through the nation would be after a vaccine had been offered to every Australian.
‘I think that’ll be when we’ve got as high vaccination coverage for the adult population as we can possibly get to, so everyone being offered it, and building that confidence in vaccines as much as we can … then we need to really say ”look, we can’t sit on our hands here”.’
Prof Sutton, who guided Victoria through two disastrous Covid-19 waves, urged the population to ‘step up’ and get vaccinated to allow Australia to reopen for international tourism.
His comments echo those of Nick Coatsworth, Australia’s former national deputy chief medical officer, who said the concept of Australia indefinitely eradicating Covid was a ‘false idol’.
Instead, he suggested Australians accept the reality of the virus.
‘I think we’ve been incredibly successful but with that success becomes a risk that we will be aiming for something that’s essentially not achievable,’ he told the Today show.
‘Elimination is what we’ve effectively got in Australia at the moment with no cases, but if we’re not going to get to eradication because this virus is going to be circulating in the globe for many years if not indefinitely, then at some point we need to consider that that virus will also be within our own borders.’
Former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth (pictured) says Australia needs to prepare for reopening international borders and the reintroduction of Covid in the community
In a recent speech delivered at the Royal Australian College of Surgeons annual scientific meeting, Dr Coatsworth warned against a ‘vocal few’ activist doctors using social media to undermine public confidence in vaccines.
‘Waiting [to vaccinate] is not a valid option either individually or for public health,’ he said.
Dr Coatsworth’s comments come after a report that warned Australia could ‘lose a decade’ and become a ‘hermit nation’ if the expert advice is largely ignored.
‘Ultimately when we allow Covid-19 back on our shores and it circulates in our community, we [need to be] prepared and comfortable for that to happen.’
The federal government has indicated international borders could be re-opened in the first half of next year – based on projections that most of the population will be fully vaccinated by then.
Dr Coatsworth said ‘misinformation’ from some doctors has the potential to undermine the vaccination national program.
He pointed to some doctors being ‘anti’ AstraZeneca and deliberately promoting Pfizer as a ‘better’ option.
‘That is not advocacy, it is not policy debate, it is narcissism thinly cloaked as activism,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Professor Sutton suggested the best time to ‘let Covid run’ through the nation would be after a vaccine had been offered to every Australian
‘There is a big difference between someone who has a medical degree in a particular sub-specialty to our top vaccination experts.’
Dr Coastworth’s series of recommendations comes as close to half of the 150 Australians booked on the first repatriation flight home from India on Friday were not allowed to board the plane.
A total of 42 had tested positive for Covid, forcing them to remain in the Covid-ravaged nation, where the reported number of deaths stands at over 266,000 people – and the figure is rapidly rising.
On Friday, former NSW Premier Mike Baird launched a report, dubbed ‘A Roadmap to Reopening’ which outlined the importance of Australia opening its borders as soon as possible in 2022.
Authors of the detailed report include the likes of respected Sydney based lawyer Mark Rigotti, University of Sydney school of architecture dean Robyn Dowling, and PricewaterhouseCoopers chief executive Tom Seymour, according to Perth Now.
A report, dubbed ‘A Roadmap to Reopening’ which outlined the importance of Australia opening its borders as soon as possible in 2022 – was launched by former NSW Premier Mike Baird on Friday (pictured an international traveller)
Failure to re-open the borders as soon as possible in 2022 could see Australia become a ‘hermit nation’ according to the report
‘If Australia is not ready to re-open effectively when the world recovers from the worst of the pandemic, we face enormous dislocation socially and prolonged pain economically,’ the report reads.
‘We need to move from the anxiety of the last year to a more confident and outward looking future.
‘If we do not, it is no exaggeration to say that young people, in particular, face a lost decade.’
The report goes onto suggest a three step approach to re-opening.
Widespread and rapid vaccination is highly recommended, followed by detailed testing of overseas arrivals.
A detailed quarantine system factoring in the needs of different employment industries was also viewed as integral.
‘Safe re-engagement requires industry and place-specific strategies anchored in public health principles – by guiding by the objective of reopening our society – not reverting into a hermit nation,’ Mr Rigotti said in a statement