During the first months of the pandemic, Australia appeared to be well on its way to containing covid-19.
However, since June, new outbreaks in Melbourne, the second largest city in the country, began to sound alarms.
It is suspected that it all started with quarantine problems in hotels of travelers arrived from abroad.
Therefore, the capital of the state of Victoria (southeast) decided in early July to resume the restriction measures at least until mid-August.
The people of Melbourne, since that decision was made, can only leave their homes for essential purposes and the use of masks is mandatory.
Until this week, Melbourne had reported more than 10,500 cases and 113 deaths, and hundreds of cases are reported every day in the city of five million inhabitants.
On July 30, 723 infections were registered and this July 31, 627 throughout the state, most of them occurred in Melbourne. These are the highest numbers since the health emergency in that region.
Furthermore, the figures are higher than the forecasts made by Australian health officials.
What happened? There is no complete answer yet, but this is what is known so far.
How is the situation in Australia?
During July, more than 9,000 cases were confirmed in the state where Melbourne is located, about half of the total that Australia has since the pandemic began.
In other states in the country such as New South Wales, where Sydney is, and Queensland, a good part of the outbreak areas were quickly identified and contained.
In Victoria, by contrast, the biggest problems ranged from nursing homes, factories, schools, hotels and housing estates.
Frequently, in addition. infected people were those who could not work from home.
The outbreak also appears to be related to those doing informal jobs or multiple jobs, virologists say.
Are people breaking the rules?
The Victoria government has warned that many people are doing something wrong, like going to work while sick.
“Along with community broadcasting, that’s what makes the cases grow and grow,” said State Prime Minister Daniel Andrews.
Last week, the authority reported that more than half of newly infected people had not isolated themselves while waiting 48 hours to obtain their test results.
Nine out of ten did not get tested immediately after feeling the first symptoms of coronavirus.
Andrews added that there were cases of people who They ignored the restrictions, arguing that their human rights are violated.
This kind of stance provoked strong reproaches from the Australian authorities.
The Prime Minister also acknowledged that in many cases, there were people who broke the rules because they believed that they could not afford to take a medical license.
The authority insisted that there is a medical license voucher created specifically for patients with covid-19.
Is there enough data?
The latest record numbers mostly represent people who contracted the infection in the past two weeks, with the second quarantine already underway.
However, experts point out that it is difficult to quantify the success or failure of restrictions when there are other transmission factors that are not measured.
They point out that it is clear that the transmission of asymptomatic people occurs, but its dimension is unknown.
High numbers also suggest that the virus arrived in Melbourne earlier than previously thought and remained.
Therefore, and the lack of more information, many conclusions cannot be drawnsays John Mathews, professor at the University of Melbourne.
“There should be more transparency. We really don’t know what data is collected and how well it supports current policies,” he said.
Another factor that raises questions is the effectiveness of the Australian government’s response.
Since the outbreaks began, Australia has deployed thousands of additional medical staff to identified hot spots, but the lingering question is how much is that helping?
In the face of the emergency, the authorities decided to review all the data available on the new quarantine in order to be “clear about what is happening with this virus at the moment.”
“That careful and dedicated work will happen this weekend and then we will have more to say,” Prime Minister Andrews said Friday.
The authority indicated that it focuses exclusively on “beat this thing, this evil and silent enemy“.
Most experts argue that an extension of the Melbourne quarantine is very likely and may even tighten restrictions.
In any case, experts believe that only with a sustained decrease in daily infections for more than a week can one begin to believe that the situation is improving.
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