It comes after the Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced over the weekend a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period, commencing at midnight on Sunday, for every person who arrives in Australia.
The letter, which is also being copied to the Health Minster Greg Hunt, Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy, the State Premiers and Health Ministers, expresses the doctors’ “grave concern regarding the threat that novel Coronavirus 19 (COVID19) represents to the lives of Australians.”
Australian doctors – let's tell the government that today is the day to
Please sign this open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison TODAYhttps://t.co/Yrb8i37yE6
— Dr Greg Kelly (@drgregkelly) March 15, 2020
The doctors argue that the government can avert disaster by heeding the lessons of other countries and the letter recommends two major interventions.
First; to immediately implement strict measures of lockdown and social distancing. Second; to prepare our health systems for a surge in the virus and critically ill patients.
“Taken together,” the letter states, “these measures would reduce the numbers and presentation rate of COVID19 patients and allow our health system to cope.”
The letter addresses the “predictable way the number of cases double every 3-5 days,” and wants the government to heed the lessons of other countries.”
“The transmission rates can be significantly reduced” if “widespread economic lockdown and social distancing are imposed.”
“The international experience has been that this decision cannot be averted, only delayed, and that the cost of delay in economic and human terms is higher than the cost of acting early and decisively.”
The letter depicts the reality of the spread of the virus if drastic measures are not made, and states that such inaction would put the country into a worse position than Italy is currently in.
“On current growth rates,” it states, “300 cases in Australia today will be 600 on Friday, 1200 on Tuesday next week, 2400 next Saturday, almost 5 000 on the 1st of April, and 10, 000 by the 4th of April.”
“Experience from China and Italy has also shown us that social distancing changes implemented today will take 2 weeks to show an effect on the numbers of new cases due to the lag between initial contact and development of severe disease.”
Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and Chinese provinces outside Wuhan are named in the letter as excellent examples the positive results that come out of mandatory widespread economic lockdown and social distancing.
The letter’s second and final request is for urgent preparations to be made to prepare the nation’s health systems for an unprecedented surge of those infected and critically ill patients.
“Such measures include a reduction in elective work, increased frequency and intensity of hospital cleaning, measures to temporarily increase intensive care capacity and personal protective equipment for staff.”
The letter comes as this morning, the Victorian government declared a state of emergency for the next four weeks.