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'Flattening The Curve': Why It's Important To Cancel Events As Coronavirus Spreads

With more and more major events being cancelled throughout the country over coronavirus fears, many are wondering if such extreme actions are necessary.

As the world continues to implement last-minute safety measures in an attempt to combat further spread of COVID-19, the latest casualty when it comes to major event cancellations is the Australian Grand Prix, which was called off on Friday after a morning of confusion for fans, drivers and officials.

Heavy metal music festival Download, to be held in Melbourne on Friday, March 20 and Sydney on March 21, was also scrapped after headlining US act My Chemical Romance pulled out with little more than a week's notice.

Download Festival has been cancelled for 2020. Image: Getty

With countless festivals, events, film premieres and music tours cancelling or postponing in fear of spreading the virus, Nova's Fitzy & Wippa enlisted the expertise of Dr. Andrew Rochford on Friday to explain the importance of canning major events as we continue to deal with the growing number of coronavirus cases.

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“There’s this whole idea of what’s known as 'flattening the curve' when it comes to an epidemic," he began.

"Basically what that means is: if you can imagine a graph, on one side is a number of cases going up and on the bottom is the amount of time, so basically the curve goes out very quickly when a whole bunch of people get that virus at the same time, like Italy.

"Now the problem with an epidemic like that is that at a certain point on the curve the health system becomes overwhelmed, there’s just not enough doctors, enough beds, or ventilators, So then you start to see an increase in the death rate and an increase in the number of people that are very sick," he explained.

Image: CDC

"It's not necessarily because the virus is got worse but just because the health system can’t keep up. So the idea of cancelling events, not shaking hands, washing our hands, trying to get a bit of a social distance is that you flatten the curve -- so that the upswing, the number of cases in a short period of time, is less."

He added, "The epidemic tends to last a little bit longer but you never get to the point where the health system is overloaded. And that’s a lot of what the World Health Organisation is trying to get countries to do."

"They’re trying to get us to understand as a community that we can all do something to lessen the impact.”

He added because the symptoms of the disease tend to be mild, it's likely an infected person could affect three other people, who will each go on to affect another three people per person.

The Australian Grand Prix was cancelled just hours before the action was due to start over fears about the spread of coronavirus after a McLaren team member tested positive. Image: Getty

Currently, the R0 (reproduction rate) for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, is estimated at about 2.2, meaning a single infected person will infect about 2.2 others, on average. By comparison, the flu has an R0 of 1.3.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 seems to spreads mostly through person-to-person contact within about a 1.8-meter radius, with viral particles spread through coughing and sneezing.

Given the huge crowds and close proximity of punters at music festivals, major events and film premieres, the decision to cancel or postpone seems to be the most appropriate option, given the above statistics.

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As for Dr. Rochford's thoughts on how the pandemic will continue to affect Australia, he remained positive -- so long as event organisers and individuals continue to take the necessary precautions to stop the spread of coronavirus.

"We have some things on our side, we are an island, we were very quick to slow down the movement into the country," he explained.

He went on to explain that due to evidence of people spreading coronavirus within the country, we then move on to the next stage -- containment and mitigation.

"Containment is 'let’s identify as many people as we can who have had exposure, make sure they’re positive and isolate them to make sure they don’t spread to other people'," he said.

He continued, "Mitigation is when we start looking at 'what are those things we can do to stop mass spread': social events, sporting events etc, each and every one of us taking responsibility for washing our hands and distancing ourselves from each other."

"So don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t shake your hand!"

Image: Getty