Australia Catches a Third Wave
Bulletin 132 | Jennifer Lang and Karen Cutter
Australia has periodically been mentioned in the world press as having done well in responding to COVID-19. In this bulletin, Australian actuaries Jennifer Lang and Karen Cutter explore the background behind the response to date, reasons for the success, until recently, in limiting the spread of the virus, and current challenges which have seen a marked deterioration in the situation.
Until the recent surge in cases, Australia had recorded around 900 COVID deaths, out of a population of 26m. Excess deaths in 2020 were actually negative, with fewer excess winter deaths than normal. This clearly demonstrates the relative success in containing COVID-19 during the period prior to the global roll-out of vaccines.
When there are very few to no cases in the community, there are opportunities to learn things about the virus which would not be possible in jurisdictions with more virus circulating. Insights are shared from Australia's experiences of asymptomatic testing and contact tracing.
With a third wave now hitting Australia, Jennifer and Karen discuss what went wrong, and what comes next. For much of the last 18 months, the goal has been zero-COVID. But this cannot be the goal forever when clearly COVID will not be eradicated world-wide. Australia will need to reopen to the rest of the world once sufficient vaccination coverage is achieved. When and how that happens is a work in progress.