More excellent work from the Grattan Institute today, which projects that Australia’s hospital intensive care units (ICU) will soon be overrun with coronavirus cases:
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia has been doubling every 3-to-4 days… a shutdown of anything that isn’t truly essential will be needed to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system…
Given Australia’s demographic make-up, the overall ICU rate is estimated at 2.2 per cent of diagnoses cases.
The Figure below shows that with Australia’s current rate of doubling of cases every 3-to-4 days, our ICUs will reach current capacity in mid-April. When we hit a trigger point of 12,000 new cases every day, then we know that we will hit our current ICU capacity soon after if new cases continue to grow.
In the scenario of cases doubling every three days, we would reach current ICU capacity on April 11. If cases double every four days instead, we reach ICU capacity a week later on April 18. Slowing the growth to doubling every five days would buy another week…
The initial plans to ‘flatten the curve’ would still lead to more than 100,000 new cases per day at peak fo the pandemic. While this approach will buy us time, we will still run out of ICU beds in Australia.
This will force us to confront ethical dilemmas as to who gets admitted to the ICU and for how long, and who remains in a hospital bed with less intensive treatment. These ‘tragic choices’4 that families and health professionals face are the consequences of broader social and political decisions about the toughness of spatial isolation policies. The quicker we can reduce the rate of infection, the better the health system will be able to cope. Older people are more at risk of ICU admission (and death) and so we should be particularly aiming to reduce infection in the elderly.
Our gloomy ICU forecast is primarily determined by the exponential growth in diagnosed cases. This is what needs to change. The goal should be to bring new cases in Australia down to zero as quickly as possible. All state governments must act decisively and bring in a broad shutdown now.
This is another damning indictment of the Morrison Government, which has acted far too late in closing Australia’s international border alongside shutting down schools and non-essential activities.