• Wed. Jun 8th, 2022

South Australia has prepared well for its current outbreak with strong training that should give confidence to the rest of the country, according to a national review.

Nov 16, 2020

Dr Weeramanthri reiterated the key recommendation of the report that every effort should be made to go hard and go early. He likened it to a fire.
“So the fire that you’re seeing in front of you is actually a picture from a week ago.
“So what you first do is based on the nature of that fire where it might be now, which means you’ve got to go wider than putting your hose directly on the fire.
‘Go harder and wider’
“That’s what I mean about going early, go harder, going wider.
“If you just react to the fire in front of you, you’ll always be a week behind.”
South Australia was a strong example of the need for national confidence in each state’s tracing and outbreak system, Dr Weeramanthri said.
“The outbreak that we’re seeing in South Australia for the last couple of days is a test for the South Australian system, but it’s also a test of our national system.
“Wherever we live in Australia, we’ve all got a stake in each and every state and territory being able to effectively shut down outbreaks and to have effective contact tracing.
“That was really one of the key messages of the national contact tracing review. It is not just good enough to be confident in your own state and on you health systems from your state, but you also have to have confidence in other states, and the public also has to have confidence in governments, right across Australia.
Weakest link
“A national system is only as strong as its weakest link, and that’s really really true it sounds trivial but in a federal system it is critical.”
One of the key learnings across countries was the need for a baseline level of expertise in public health.
“You can’t build a surge capacity on a very thin base, you need a good base,” Dr Weeramanthri said.
“The expertise requires how you knit all that together quickly and communicate your decisions in real time.
“You don’t have two weeks to just simply work that out. You need to have expertise, you need to be able to quickly pull the key bits together and implement them and make decisions. There’s no rule book for that.”
Dr Weeramanthri said the biggest risk came from returning international travellers in hotel quarantine.
“There is absolutely no doubt if it’s going to come from anywhere, it is going to come from the quarantine hotels.
“It is kind of almost inevitable that occasionally, a case will slip out.”
Four breaches
South Australia’s outbreak came from a cleaner in one of the medi-hotels. Victoria and NSW have had several instances of breakouts from quarantine hotels, with almost all of the Victorian second wave coming from four breaches from two hotels.
Dr Weeramanthri said this was why the report had said continuous improvement was critical.
“Until human beings are perfect all systems created by human beings are going to have imperfections. However, however much you try and make them as best as possible so this notion of continuous improvement.
“But we have to learn from that each time we have to continuously improve, We’ve got to be able to get on top of it early.”
Dr Weeramanthri said it was also very important to communicate the uncertainty that exists with any viral pandemic to the public.
The report endorsed a strong localised approach to contact tracing, as evidenced by NSW and now being emulated in Victoria.
Deakin University’s chairman in epidemiology, Catherine Bennett, said she would have made strong community engagement the primary recommendation.
“It is about keeping people on board helping them understand why it all matters, and having that behaviour to give us that protection.”
“We’ve learned how important community relationships are when we get into very complex community settings.
“You’ve got large families across many households and we often are talking about some of the more diverse parts of our community.
“It’s not just the language issue it’s actually about people’s attitudes and understanding of health and government, and how they interact with government
“It’s good to see it in there [in the review report]. They’ve put it at the end I would put it at the start.
Professor Bennett commended the review’s focus on analytics, noting this would enable public health officials to manage and predict risks and to manage outbreaks proactively.