Modelling Shows Coronavirus Curve Flattening As PM Begs Aussies To Stay Vigilant
Scientific modelling of Australia's potential coronavirus spread shows the curve is beginning to flatten -- but there's a long road ahead, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said.
Morrison shared excerpts of the scientific modelling in a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday, showing an uncontrolled outbreak would overwhelm Australia's hospital system, with five times more beds needed than currently exist.
He also warned against complacency over the Easter weekend, and announced commercial rents would be reduced over coming months.
"We are on the right track," Morrison said when presenting the modelling, the full version of which was released later on Tuesday afternoon.
The models, based on international experience, project that uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak would require 35,000 intensive care hospital beds per day at the peak of demand -- which the report said "would greatly exceed Australia’s expanded capacity of 7,000 ICU beds."
Under government measures requiring isolation and quarantine, that number would drop to 17,000 ICU beds per day at peak. Adding social distancing -- such as stay-home orders -- to that would put the daily peak at 5,000 beds, within capacity.
He said the modelling released -- prepared by the Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne -- was "the full complement" of what was available to the government, but noted it had "limitations".
The modelling is mostly based on international data, due to the relatively small numbers of community transmission in Australia making projections difficult. Such modelling is not strictly a prediction of what will happen, but a projection of what may happen under certain specific scenarios. Federal health authorities had been worried the data may be misinterpreted by the public.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the data was "highly theoretical". Health officials are now working on predictive models which can help forecast what may happen in Australia.
Murphy said that, based on the data available, it was "too early" to forecast when social distancing or stay-home orders could be lifted.
"The modelling does not predict what will happen in Australia," Morrison stressed, urging calm in reporting and considering the numbers.
"The modelling work is based on international data... it proves up the theory of flattening the curve. By taking the measures we are taking, you can make a difference."
Murphy showed graphs, explaining they showed that "we are flattening the curve" but that "complacency is our biggest risk." He explained that, based on overseas experience and evidence, if an outbreak did occurm stronger social distancing measures could help bring it under control.
"We have the tools," he said.
"We must not be complacent. We must hold the line."
Morrison praised Australia's response but said more work was still to be done, noting "modest success".
"We must lock in these gains," the PM said.
Morrison said Australia enjoyed benefits that other countries overseas, which were currently facing "horror" coronavirus situations, did not.
"Our health and economic responses is giving us the opportunity... to plan our way through and out of these crises," he said.
"We have bought valuable time but we cannot be complacent."
The modelling released by Morrison is based on data from overseas nations.
The government has been under pressure to release the modelling for several weeks, after other governments around the world -- including in the United States and New Zealand -- released their own.
On commercial tenancies, Morrison also announced state premiers have agreed to a mandatory code of conduct to be legislated across all states and territories. It does not apply to residential tenants.
The rules will apply to commercial tenancies where the tenant or landlord is eligible for the JobKeeper payment and has a turnover of $50 million or less.
Landlords must not evict tenants and will have to lower commercial rents in line with the company's falling revenue.
Tenants must not break the lease under the new rules announced on Tuesday.
The national cabinet is still working on solutions for residential tenancies.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann indicated landlords who support tenants in financial distress because of coronavirus will be offered land tax relief.