‘Key to getting out of lockdown’ revealed
Infectious disease modeller Professor Emma McBryde reckons she knows how to end the coronavirus lockdown besetting Australia, though it's not without its risks.
She has controversially suggested the virus should be deliberately spread in select low-risk groups, such as children, to control the spread and build immunity.
"Young children may be the key to getting out of lockdown," she told Channel 9's 60 Minutes last night.
"One of the answers could be in the fact that COVID-19 behaves differently in different age groups," Professor McBryde said.
"It appears that children are not only less vulnerable to severe disease, they also may well be less infectious and less likely to become symptomatic.
"We can't be so risk averse that we just keep doing what we're doing because that has its own risks as well and if we do everything we possibly can to make sure that no one dies from coronavirus, people are going to start dying from other things."
Microbiologist Professor Peter Collignon believes her potentially risky idea is worth a shot.
"All the available evidence around the world is children under the age of 15 rarely get this (the virus) and rarely get complications," he told 60 Minutes.
"In an emergency, you've got to break glass.
"And we're breaking glass."
Danish political scientist and economist Dr Bjorn Lomborg said a lockdown wasn't necessary as there would still be a "second wave" of infections later down the track in Australia.
"The reality is, if we just want to stop coronavirus in its tracks, we have to shut down society almost entirely, and in the long run, that is not a sustainable solution," he said.
"We need to have the conversation, how much should we tackle corona, versus how much should we avoid totally destroying the economy?
"At some point, we actually need to say, 'This is enough. If we go further, we're going to damage the economy more than the few extra people we're going to save.'"
Dr Lomborg compared the coronavirus response in Australia to the reduction of speed limits on the roads.
"If you want to save everyone who dies in traffic, you should just take it down to five kilometres an hour," he said.
"Nobody would die. But of course, the point is, you don't want to do that because it also has huge social ramifications."
Dr Lomborg said Sweden's middle-ground measures to stem the coronavirus spread should be emulated by Australia to avoid economic disaster.
It has been dubbed the moral dilemma of our time - ruin society but save lives, or lose lives but save society.
We either save avoidable deaths & destroy society OR accept avoidable deaths & save society. The moral dilemma of our time.— Alexander Downer (@AlexanderDowner) April 7, 2020
The Australian government maintains herd immunity would not be in Australia's best interest.
"If we attempt herd immunity we would end up with a very large number of people severely unwell and a very large number of people would die so we're not going down a herd immunity approach in Australia," Health Department principal medical advisor Michael Kidd said yesterday.
Overseas, in countries such as the US - where nearly half a million people have been infected - lockdowns could end within just a few months, or even weeks.
This is because huge amounts of the population will have been struck down with the virus and either died or recovered, making them immune.
But in Australia, not enough people will have been exposed to COVID-19 - meaning it could still prove fatal for the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Originally published as 'Key to getting out of lockdown' revealed