Coronavirus: Grattan Institute report calls for Australia to push for zero cases

The Grattan Institute has called for testing to ramp up once Australia gets to zero active cases. Picture: Karleen Minney
The Grattan Institute has called for testing to ramp up once Australia gets to zero active cases. Picture: Karleen Minney

NSW, Victoria and Queensland should aggressively drive down COVID-19 cases to zero, according to a new report from the Grattan Institute.

The report, Go for zero: how Australia can get to zero COVID-19 cases, suggests that with strict social distancing measures, Victoria could get to zero active cases by October.

Lead author and Grattan Health Program director Dr Stephen Duckett says COVID-19 is a matter of short term pain for long term gain.

"Getting cases down to zero, and keeping them there, will be hard work - but it will save lives and enable the economy to recover more quickly," Dr Duckett said

"Having come this far, we should finish the job."

He has called on the government to be crystal clear that Australia is aiming for zero active cases.

"National cabinet said back in July that zero is the goal, but not every state is actually doing things that will get us to zero," he said.

The report described NSW's strategy of keeping cases to manageable levels without increasing restrictions as dangerous.

"That's the yo-yo strategy," he said.

"The economy could be seized with uncertainty as businesses open, close, open, and close again."

However, the report also calls on clearer communications about the way out of lockdown.

It calls for a staggered approach to easing restrictions, much like how restrictions were phased in, that follow clear criteria.

"Obviously as the number of cases go down in the community, people will expect to have some pathway out," he said.

"What I think happened last time was that we loosened restrictions too soon, and that allowed the virus to establish and allow the second wave to happen.

"We've got to be more cautious next time and the government needs to be more clear criteria for when it's going to relax some restrictions."


Dr Duckett believes the push for reopening borders is myopic, and is not the silver bullet for Australia's economic woes.

"Put yourself in Western Australia's shoes, they have zero cases, put yourself in Brisbane's shoes, they've got very few [cases]... they're more or less back to normal," he said.

"The benefits to Western Australia far outweigh the costs.

"Being able to have their economy to start up again even though they cant have domestic tourism is much better for WA than opening their borders and letting the infection into their state."

The report also suggests that easing of restrictions should only happen when daily cases are below 20 people.

Once at zero active cases, the report suggests states will need to ramp up testing, including random mass testing of higher-risk groups, contact tracing will need to be faster and more accurate and all international arrivals would need to quarantine.

"We should go for zero, because the pay-off will be worth it," he said.

This story 'Finish the job': Push to get to zero active case and avoid 'yo-yo' strategy first appeared on The Canberra Times.