The Australian Medical Association says if Covid cases in NSW do not start dropping by the end of the month the premier will have to go “back to the drawing board” and consider how restrictions can be tightened even further.
The AMA president, Dr Omar Khorshid, on Friday called on Gladys Berejiklian to take further steps to bring the Delta outbreak under control, “including the closure of all non-essential retail outlets, non-essential services and reviewing limits on how far people can travel from their home”.
The NSW government did act on Saturday, announcing tougher restrictions including stopping all construction work, tightening the definition of “critical” work, and ordering residents of Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool not to leave their local government areas until 30 July unless they were “authorised” workers and underwent regular testing.
Khorshid told Guardian Australia on Monday he was glad health measures had been been “ramped up”.
“There’s now not a whole lot more they can do,” he said. “So it’s going to be a very interesting couple of weeks to see whether the measures have the desired effect. I think there’s very little chance they will have enough of an effect in just a two-week period, that’s very unlikely. If they are still seeing around 100 cases a day, though, after a week or two weeks, it’s going to have to be back to the drawing board.
“Remember, no state has successfully fought off a Delta outbreak yet. Our playbook that worked well for the original variant and Alpha … we just don’t know if they will work for Delta. But I hope they do.”
Khorshid said he had not heard from infectious diseases experts or epidemiologists that the measures might not work. “But it’s something in the back of my mind,” he said. “It’s an issue that will need to be confronted if numbers don’t come down by end of this week or early next week. Then there will be difficult discussions to be had.”
Berejiklian on Monday said she still hoped to get to zero infectious cases in the community.
“We don’t take any decisions lightly, but we are throwing everything at this because we know we have a chance of quashing this,” the premier said.
An associate professor of epidemiology at La Trobe University, Hassan Vally, said on the current numbers and with the restrictions in place “it is going to take a while for cases to get back to zero in New South Wales – potentially more than a month or two”.
“Victoria is better placed but still with some work to do and we are looking at a couple of weeks, at least, if things go really well,” Vally said
The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said on Monday vaccinating children would be an additional measure the state could take to stop the Delta spread, but this was not yet recommended by the federal government.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advice states: “Vaccines are not currently registered or recommended for use in children aged <16 years. Data on vaccine safety, immunogenicity and efficacy are not available from clinical trials in this age group”. The drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has given provisional approval for children age 16 and above to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Chant said Delta was different to other variants because it seemed to spread more easily to and between children. She said she did not think children should be placed ahead of other priority groups but “we need to rethink and think about our role of vaccinating children”.
“It is pleasing to see in some countries overseas that we have vaccines that are licensed for use in children,” she said.