Researchers from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific have contributed to a key report aimed at helping the Government guide Australia's path through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Roadmap to Recovery report, presented to the Federal Government this week, focuses on the impact of the virus and short-term recovery and outlines two options for consideration: Elimination or Controlled Adaptation.
The taskforce of more than 100 researchers from across the Group of Eight universities included Professor Quentin Grafton, Professor Robert Breunig, Dr Elise Klein, Dr Siobhan McDonnell, Professor Warwick McKibbin, Maeve Powell, Professor Peter Whiteford and Dr Mandy Yap from the Crawford School of Public Policy, and Dr Ashley Schram from the School of Regulation & Global Governance.
Other researchers and experts from The Australian National University also participated in the taskforce.
Noting the National Cabinet had already set the course until mid-May, the report explores solutions for beyond that date.
The Elimination strategy proposes the continuation of the lock-down further than mid-May in certain jurisdictions, and more extensive testing and contract tracing. It would require waiting for local cases to fall to zero and remain at that level for a few weeks.
The report said the strategy should lead to fewer total infections, hospitalisations and deaths, and better protection of vulnerable populations.
The Controlled Adaptation strategy would see the gradual relaxation of restrictions and adaptive relaxation of social distancing as early as mid-May.
"The major long-term advantage of this approach is that it acknowledges the high likelihood of prolonged global circulation of this infection and starts off by preparing Australians and the health system to adapt to living with the ongoing risk of infections," the report said.
The Controlled Adaptation strategy accepts a slightly higher number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
The taskforce was co-chaired by Professor Shitij Kapur, Dean of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, and Vicki Thomson, Chief Executive of the Group of Eight.
"The report’s focus is vitally dual – focusing on both the nation’s health and economy," said Ms Thomson.
"Understanding that the Government had already ruled out the so-called ‘let it rip’ herd immunity option, our researchers concluded, and clearly set out, that there were two viable options to move Australia forward."
Senior academics and early career researchers across epidemiology, statistical modelling, infectious diseases, public and mental health, psychology, economics, political science, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander expertise, business and international relations were recruited for the taskforce.
Ms Thomson said the committed researchers had all volunteered for the extremely intense project during which they worked across public holidays and well into each night.
“We hope that what we have provided will now greatly assist the Government as it wrestles to work through how best to take Australia forward with this decision due in mid-May."
Read the COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery report here.