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How will Australia adapt as it shifts away from its long-held COVID-zero approach?

Customers are seen at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne Source: AAP

If and when those cases do rise, how will our health system react? Hospitals confirmed they could add another 3,440 ICU beds if required, but only 383 of them would be adequately staffed due to workforce constraints.

Sydney University infectious diseases expert Professor Robert Booy says higher case numbers are all but inevitable as Australia reopens, but those cases will mostly be far less severe.

"These are both exciting but scary times too, because we will get more case numbers as people mix more in schools, in the community, in the workplace. Because we have fantastic vaccination rates, especially in the at-risk populations, the kinds of people who will get sick are younger, much less likely to be hospitalised, if they are hospitalised they are much less likely to require intensive care, and they'll probably only be in for a few days, instead of many people who are elderly with COVID ending up in hospital for weeks."

Various leading scientists have tried to predict what that caseload may be.

The Doherty Institute’s modelling that informed the federal roadmap to reopening said if the country were to re-open at 70 per cent vaccination coverage with partial public health measures, Australia could expect nearly 386,000 cases and 1,400  deaths over six months. 

However, in the almost three weeks since New South Wales' lockdown ended, Dr Booy says those predicted high case numbers have not yet eventuated. 

"The modelling has tended to overestimate the number of cases and the number of deaths. We certainly have got to a good position in NSW, because essentially the pandemic has started to burn itself out. The number of cases who are susceptible is getting so few, either because they're vaccinated or they're naturally immune."

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to the feature in Punjabi.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://www.sbs.com.au/language/coronavirus

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