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Epidemiologist says “zero Covid” countries risk isolation unless vaccination is ramped up

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: April Pethybridge on Unsplash

A leading infectious diseases specialist in Australia says countries using tight border control measures to maintain their “zero Covid” status risk being left in limbo unless vaccination is accelerated. According to a Bloomberg report, Greg Dore from the University of New South Wales in Sydney says border restrictions that have kept Covid-19 deaths below 1,000 in Australia are not sustainable. He says the country now needs to ramp up vaccination with disease immunity in mind, which would mean Covid-19 is no longer a major threat.

“Once we get a higher proportion of the adult population vaccinated, we will provide that disease immunity and then we’ll be able to open up. The virus will come in. There’ll be some cases. There may be some people who get reasonably sort of sick, but the numbers of cases with severe illness and the numbers of deaths will be very small.”

Dore was speaking as the south-eastern state of Victoria endures a 2-week lockdown in an effort to eliminate the virus in Melbourne – for the fourth time. State health officials have reported 69 active infections. According to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, Australia has recorded over 30,000 Covid-19 cases since January 2020 and has administered only 4.5 million vaccine doses for a population of 26 million people.

Meanwhile, risk communications consultant Jody Lanard says places like Singapore and Hong Kong, where transmission has been controlled through strict public health measures, also need to improve the take-up of vaccines.

“I’m worried that the ‘Covid zero’ countries are kind of like sitting ducks waiting for Covid to come in. I’m very worried that ‘Covid zero’ is really ‘Covid limbo.’ You’re just waiting for something terrible to happen.”

Lanard’s colleague, Peter Sandman, says countries that bet on “Covid zero” by implementing tough policies now need to move to a policy of vaccinating and re-opening.

“Having won the gamble, you have to convince people to collect their winnings. The only way they get to collect the winnings is to be willing to get vaccinated and open up. No country wants to be the hermit kingdom of the 21st century.”

SOURCE: Bloomberg

 

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