The researchers created detailed models using data from what worked during Melbourne’s second wave to get cases from more than 700 cases a day back down to zero.
They estimated that “without the progressive introduction of restrictions starting on 26 June, including stay-at-home orders, further restrictions on 9 July and the closure of non-essential retail on 18 July, Sydney would have recorded approximately 1000 cases per day by now”.
“We calculate that the restrictions implemented so far have avoided 4000 cases, over and above the many prevented by contract tracing and subsequent isolation,” they wrote.
A dashed red line shows predicted daily cases in absence of restrictions in Sydney, AustraliaSource:Supplied
The researchers wrote that while a huge spike in cases had been avoided by measures introduced to date, cases will rise drastically if further measures are not introduced.
“When we ran (modelling) using trends in individual local health authorities, it predicted that by this Friday, 5 August, Sydney will record about 570 cases per day,” they wrote.
“This is the result of stable or falling daily cases in south west Sydney Local Health District (LHD) being exceeded by rising cases elsewhere. It takes about a week before new controls have an effect, so we don’t expect new restrictions announced on 30 July to kick in until at least 7 August.
“Furthermore, unless new controls introduced on 28 and 30 July or in the future (eg. LGAs that develop large case numbers are included in the tighter controls) have a major impact, our model projects that Sydney will have about 7700 cases per day 4 weeks from now.”
One academic said it was possible NSW would become the first state to be forced to “live with the virus” and give up on the goal of zero community cases.
A lone shopper makes their way through a near empty mall in the district of Fairfield on July 30, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“NSW could be forced to bumble its way forward and play whack-a-mole until vaccination coverage is high enough so we can drive the outbreak down,” Melbourne University epidemiologist Tony Blakely said.
“This year, we have a virus that spreads by fleeting transmission, it’s way more likely to transmit in a coffee queue,” he said.
“There is an incredibly strong case for wearing masks outdoors whenever you’re next to somebody. Why it’s not mandatory across all of Sydney, I don’t understand.
“If NSW was serious about eliminating the virus in the next six weeks, you would do everything you could.”
NSW recorded 239 new cases on Sunday.
“Based on those numbers we can only assume that things are likely to get worse before they get better given the quantity of people infectious in the community,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.