Images of Bondi beach on Friday evening, the sand and ocean teaming with thousands of residents seemingly unconcerned with the unfolding coronavirus pandemic, will not be forgotten.
Footage had to be seen to be believed. Australia’s most famous beach looked as crowded as it always is right in the thick of Summer. The images were enough for the beaches to be closed the very next day.
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) March 22, 2020
Those who flocked there were derided and criticised widely. They were labelled selfish and uninformed for failing to take the public health risk seriously.
To my mind it highlights a troubling disconnect between reality and perception. I am less convinced that thousands of Sydney-siders would recklessly choose to pursue leisure over isolation just for the hell of it than I am persuaded they quite genuinely didn’t appreciate the risk. To themselves or others.
Crazy as that may seem, consider that just the week earlier the Prime Minister himself had been almost boasting about his plans to attend the footy last weekend. Days before that he was still condoning handshaking.
It’s not that difficult to understand why this pandemic isn’t being taken as seriously as it needs to be.
Health authorities have confirmed a number of new cases of coronavirus amongst backpackers at Bondi.
Let’s just have a look once more at the scene at Bondi Beach on Friday…
If you were there, please urgently self-isolate. pic.twitter.com/0A8ulxCfZz
— Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson) March 22, 2020
Whatever the exact reason, it seems the message about the severity of this virus, and the likely impact it will have, is still not getting through. Not quickly enough. Bondi on Friday is a case in point.
There is an incredibly active global medical community on social media and if there is a single message they seem to be distilling with urgency and growing frustration it’s that this is not a drill. This is not just like the flu. It does not just pose a health risk to older people. Right around the world otherwise healthy people have been affected by this virus. Suppression is the best chance we have at containment.
Right now life in Australia cannot proceed as it always has. The extent to which that happens is the extent to which we will be devastated by COVID19.
This is the best piece I've read on the epidemiology of the pandemic, including a stab at what a cost-benefit analysis might look like towards the end, filling in the numbers on that will become important as we get past the current phase of our response.https://t.co/xudZ4zoF5Z
— Jason Furman (@jasonfurman) March 20, 2020
Suppression is the only viable option. That means isolating to the extent possible is absolutely critical. If you don’t need to go out don’t. If you do go out, be vigilant about hygiene. Whatever you touch, consider it a potential source of infection.
Dan Suan is a clinical Immunologist and Immunopathologist in Australia with a PhD in immunology. He has been writing regular updates. This is his most recent update on Monday the 23rd of March:
“It’s not great news.
Australia’s curve remains on an upward trajectory, the curve is not flattening.
The number of cases is DOUBLING roughly every THREE DAYS.
At this rate, we will reach 5000 cases on the 28th of March, and 10,000 cases around the 31st of March.
Our curve remains less steep compared to European countries and America; this buys us precious days to implement further strategies and prepare the hospital system for the incoming tidal wave of critically ill patients.
We must do all we can to prevent this disaster.
The federal and state governments have announced widespread shutdowns.
Germany has banned gatherings of more than 2 people (smart!).
There is still time to avoid disaster, but only with widespread community understanding and adoption of STRICT SOCIAL ISOLATION.
The correct number for EFFECTIVE social isolation is ONE PERSON, or the smallest number of people in a family or single home.
Cancel everything involving two or more people and stay in your homes please.
This is the only way to break the transmission of the virus.
Our message hasn’t changed since we first posted 11 days ago.
TODAY is still the most important day.
Our ACTIONS today determine our fate.
We HAVE to stop the spread of this virus.
We HAVE to get all Australians to isolate and follow 5 simple rules:
1. Stay at home
2. Don’t touch anything (when you go out)
3. Don’t touch anyone (when you go out)
4. Don’t touch your face
5. Wash your hands frequently
This is not alarmism and this is not a drill. What medical professionals are saying is that to slow the spread of this virus we need to implement measures that go well beyond what is currently being mandated. What’s being mandated is the absolute bare minimum. Suppression is critical.