Reopening of workplaces and shops could trigger coronavirus second wave in Australia, report warns

The risk of new infections increases as shops, schools and workplaces reopen, particularly if people ignore social distancing rules, a report has warned.

People shopping at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne.

People shopping at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. Source: AAP

It's dangerous for Australians to think the fight against COVID-19 is over, the Grattan Institute has warned.

The new report, Coming out of Covid-19 Lockdown: the Next Steps for Australian Health Care, uses modelling to show the risk of new infections increases as shops, schools and workplaces reopen, particularly if people ignore social distancing rules.

Capacity constraints on workplaces, shops, and hospitality should only be removed when there are no active cases in Australia, it suggests.

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The report said workplaces should be reopened slowly, with as many people working from home as possible to limit opportunities for the virus to spread.

The report urged 'as many people as possible' to continue to work from home.
The report urged 'as many people as possible' to continue to work from home. Source: AAP


The think tank also backed mandatory quarantining for international arrivals and urged the practice to remain in place.

Grattan Institute program director Stephen Duckett said the transition to a new normal wouldn't have an end date until a vaccine or treatment is found.

"It's dangerous for people to think this fight is over," Dr Duckett said.

"The nature of the virus hasn't changed - our behaviour has.

"If Australians go back to a pre-COVID normal, the virus could spread quickly and wildly, like it has elsewhere."

The report also recommends closing schools when a case arises, which is the policy currently being followed by state authorities.

Mr Duckett said telehealth should become a permanent part of the healthcare system although in a way that doesn't impede continuity of care.



"Without good planning for the transition, we risk a second wave and we risk not benefiting from the health system changes that occurred during the pandemic," he said.

"That would be another tragedy on top of the trauma caused by the pandemic itself."



Dr Duckett said there will be a further surge in demand for mental health services after the pandemic, so technological solutions should be considered to help the overloaded system.

Mental health hotlines in Australia have reported a 25 to 50 per cent increase in the number of calls for help received, compared to the same time last year, the report noted.

"Using non-specialist health workers, supported by digital technology, could also improve the care of people with mental health problems," he said.

Victorians have been warned against travelling to six coronavirus hotspots in the Melbourne region as the number of cases continues to climb.
Victorians have been warned against travelling to six coronavirus hotspots in the Melbourne region as the number of cases continues to climb. Source: AAP


The release of the report comes as the Victorian government announced it would extend its state of emergency for at least four more weeks until July 19 after case numbers rose to the highest they have been in more than two months.

The spike also prompted South Australia to reconsider its decision to reopen its border to Victoria, while Queensland has declared all of greater Melbourne a COVID-19 hotspot and will force any returning travellers from Melbourne to undergo mandatory quarantine.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at .


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Published 22 June 2020 at 5:50am