An epidemiologist has blasted the NSW Premier for dismissing a data model that predicted it could take until September for the current lockdown rules to suppress the state’s coronavirus outbreak.
The modelling by the Populations Intervention Unit at the University of Melbourne predicted that with the tough new lockdown rules put in place on July 18, it could take as long as seven-and-a-half weeks from that date to push the community infection numbers down to an acceptable level.
That would mean the lockdown wouldn’t end until the second week of September.
The researchers said they ran the numbers 10,000 times to account for the high unpredictability of the Delta strain and found the median length of time needed from July 18 was 5.8 weeks, which would mean the numbers would abate by August 27.
The researchers put the benchmark for successfully suppressing the numbers at five daily cases, on a rolling 14-day average.
Camera IconSydney is in its fourth week of lockdown. NCA NewsWire/Adam Yip Credit: News Corp Australia
But when a reporter asked Gladys Berejiklian about the modelling at Wednesday’s press conference, she was dismissive.
“We see versions of lots of modelling,” she replied.
“Remember the modelling we were presented with 18 months ago about the number of cases and deaths which would happen in Australia?
“That didn’t materialise.”
The Premier was referring to the doomsday scenarios predicted by epidemiologists in the early days of the pandemic.
“Modelling has a role and a purpose, but what is the most effective tool for us to measure what the result looks like is our own activity,” she then said.
When NCA NewsWire put the Premier’s comments to epidemiologist Tony Blakely, one of the co-authors of the study, he reacted strongly.
“That is utter rubbish,” he said.
“This is a deliberate political ploy to discredit the modelling.”
Camera IconNSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was asked about the modelling on Wednesday. NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett Credit: News Corp Australia
Professor Blakely issued one of those early warnings in a March 23, 2020 report called “The maths and ethics of minimising Covid-19 deaths”.
That report predicted that the virus could kill 134,000 Australians if society continued to function as normal.
But in the interview on Wednesday, he made the argument that it would be unfair to disregard those numbers, because Australia didn’t allow society to function as normal, instead opting to take strong action to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I get annoyed with politicians that misrepresent modelling – it's utter deception,” he said.
Ms Berejiklian has said the lockdown likely won’t end until the number of people who are active in the community while infectious is pushed close to zero.
NSW reported 111 new local coronavirus infections on Wednesday and at least 60 of those had spent time in the community since they caught the virus.