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How we’ll avoid Australia’s hospitals being crippled by coronavirus

This article was first published on The Conversation | Read Full Article


Australians should now be practising social distancing to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

By creating more space between yourself and others you decrease the risk of person-to-person spread.

It’s also essential that confirmed cases, those awaiting test results and people who have recently returned from overseas self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days.

The purpose of these public health measures, and others such as practising good hand hygiene and cough etiquette, is to “flatten the curve” or mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

If we don’t slow the spread of the virus and decrease the number of people with it at any given time, our health-care system – and intensive care units in particular – will struggle to cope.

What would uncontrolled spread look like?

As Australian mathematician Joel Miller, from La Trobe University, wrote on The Conversation, without public health interventions, the virus could spread quickly and infect a large proportion of the population:

  • COVID-19’s observed doubling time has been about four days. That means every four days the number of cases has been roughly double what it was four days prior.
  • We would calculate it takes about three months for one infection doubling every four days to cause 15 million infections.
  • After the peak, we expect the total time to drop to be about the same as it took to rise. This gives a crude prediction of six months.

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