Australia

Australian government's coronavirus modelling shows 'we are flattening the curve'

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Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says Australians should be "reassured" by the government's coronavirus modelling, saying that it shows "we are flattening the curve".

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says the federal government's coronavirus modelling shows social distancing and hygiene measures are "flattening the curve".

"The early indications are positive, but we can't be complacent. We must not be complacent, we must hold the line," he said. 

"We know that the tools that we are using do work and we can scale them up and down as necessary."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the growth rate of new cases of the virus was falling "well beyond our expectations" and said the results had "provided us with much-needed time."

"We have avoided the otherwise tens of thousands of cases that may have occurred across the Australian community and the other fatalities that may have occurred at this point," he said.

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What does it mean to flatten the curve?
What does it mean to flatten the curve?

Mr Morrison and Mr Murphy revealed modelling to reporters in Canberra on Tuesday, revealing a worst-case scenario where the pandemic is left "uncontrolled."

Government modelling suggests that if more than 23 million people were infected at once, there would be demand for more than 35,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds each day - far above capacity.

Mr Murphy warned Australia was "not in any way out of trouble", and said the measures of social distancing and hygiene will remain after the pandemic.

"We're now starting to see the true impact of the wonderful uptake by the Australian community of social distancing and general hygiene measures. Some of those measures, I think, will stay with us all forever, even when this is over." 

'You will have what we have'

He said herd immunity - where a large portion of the population is immune to a disease - is not something health officials are working towards as a goal at the moment. 

"We are pursuing a path of herd immunity. We're pursuing a path of control and suppression," he said, adding that there are no examples of communities in the world that have "very high immunity as of yet".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the modelling data to be released later today is highly theoretical, and does not predict what will happen with cases in Australia.

"You will have what we have... it is the full complement of what we have available to us," he told reporters in Canberra. 

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says the government's modelling shows the number of cases of COVID-19 are "flattening".
Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says the government's modelling shows the number of cases of COVID-19 are "flattening".
AAP

"It does not predict what will happen in Australia...it does not tell you how many will succumb to the virus, or how long it [the pandemic] will last in the country.

"...It proves up the theory of flattening the curve."

Mr Murphy says the national cabinet - of state and territory leaders - will be presented with various scenarios of how this pandemic will unfold, including keeping the borders closed until a vaccine is formulated.

Mr Morrison says after national cabinet examines all the information, some states and territories may well decide to ease their restrictions before others. 

Mandatory code for commercial landlords, tenants

The prime minister confirmed that a mandatory code of conduct for commercial tenancies will be legislated across all states and territories.

Under the measures, small businesses shut down because of coronavirus will soon have their rent reduced in line with their revenue falls.

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.

'Stay at home this Easter weekend' 

Mr Morrison urged Australians to stay at home this Easter weekend and maintain social distancing measures.

He says a failure to do so "would completely undo everything we have achieved so far together".

"We have bought valuable time, but we cannot be complacent. We must keep tension in the cord.

"This Easter weekend will be incredibly important. Stay at home."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians to maintain their compliance with social distancing measures.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians to maintain their compliance with social distancing measures.
AAP

Health authorities said there is a concern people may be tempted to breach the social distancing requirements over the Easter weekend. 

Younger people - those aged in their thirties - are being warned against complacency given the numbers being hospitalised. 

New polling from Essential Research found the new social distancing rules are being adopted, but those aged between 18 and 34 are less likely to comply compared to those from an older age group. 

So far, 5795 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Australia, and 46 have died.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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

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