New South Wales must close restaurants, bars and clubs for two weeks and mandate masks in public to avoid a second wave of coronavirus, epidemiologists are warning.
With the state recording new infections in the double digits every day over recent weeks, Marylouise McLaws, an epidemiology professor at UNSW, says people in the state are exhibiting a worrying complacency.
“If I was running the state, I would shut all the hotels, bars and clubs for 14 days,” McLaws told Hatch.
“It’s time to act. It’s time to wear a mask in public so that we can dampen down any further casual spread.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned this week that the state was on “a knife edge”, and foreshadowed tougher restrictions unless more people start wearing masks and businesses adhere to Covid-safe rules.
However, she stopped short of imposing a mandatory mask rule, saying that “we are not at that place yet”.
McLaws, who is on the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 advisory panel, believes Sydneysiders need to take social distancing and self-isolation more seriously.
“I think the complacency is because people aren’t hearing the ‘gloom and doom’ from [political] leaders,” she said.
“Leaders have a balancing act. They’re always worried about whether the economy will plummet because they’re telling the truth.”
“On the other hand, if they … stress the worst-case scenario, then they will be criticised because it might not eventuate. They’re never going to win.”
McLaws noted that 165 new cases in NSW in recent weeks had been acquired in bars, restaurants and pubs.
She said the cost to businesses and employees of a two-week shutdown would be outweighed by the benefits of avoiding a second wave.
Dr David Muscatello, a senior lecture in epidemiology at UNSW, said: “The biggest concern I have is the number of people whose [infection] can’t be explained by contact with known cases.
They’re the ones that I am really worried about and they seem to be growing … in New South Wales.”
If measures such as mandatory mask-wearing had been implemented a couple of weeks earlier, Victoria would not have experienced such a devastating second wave, McLaws believes.
She said: “I hope that NSW is learning and doesn’t face the same mistakes … [as] Victoria.”
Victoria today (Friday) recorded 372 new cases and 14 deaths.