Despite some calls for Australia to adopt an elimination strategy instead of suppression, the ACT Government has agreed to the National Cabinet’s goal of zero community transmission of COVID-19, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced in a statement today, 24 July.
Mr Barr said COVID-19 will remain a threat to public health for the foreseeable future, even when there is no community transmission.
“Therefore, ongoing measures are required to ensure the virus does not become embedded and spread uncontrollably in the community,” he said.
“Australia is now experiencing a second wave which is inherently different to the first wave. There is a predominance of community transmission, a change in the affected demographic and a rapid escalation of cases.”
He said the recent outbreaks have demonstrated that if the disease is able to enter the community unseen, it will spread quickly.
For these reasons, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has recommended, and National Cabinet has agreed, that the policy goal for Australia should be to have zero community transmission of COVID-19.
Mr Barr said this policy represents a further strengthening of the current suppression strategy, but acknowledges that new cases will occur. Success will rely on finding those cases early and stopping chains of transmission.
“When there is no community transmission, it is then possible to carefully relax restrictions, whilst maintaining some level of protection.”
According to Mr Barr, achieving and maintaining this goal requires four key things:
- A strict commitment to personal measures (hygiene, physical distancing and staying home if unwell);
- Active case finding and contact tracing;
- Targeted testing of the affected population; and
- Community based interventions (limits on gathering sizes, new ways of working and movement restrictions).
“The goal of no community transmission recognises that outbreaks will occur but there are ways that all Australians can reduce this risk,” he said.
“Achieving this goal needs commitment – everyone must work together.”