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Coronavirus Australia: Experts raise concerns over lifting restrictions

Coronavirus Australia: Experts raise concerns over lifting restrictions

A second wave of coronavirus could hit Australia as states and territories begin lifting their COVID-19 restrictions, an infectious diseases specialist said.

Dr Dena Grayson, an infectious diseases specialist based in the US, said lifting social distancing rules now could undo all of Australia’s good work in the early days of the pandemic.

“Your country’s done a fabulous job of getting your hands around this virus and just as you’re literally entering flu season, and you’re not having a lot of new cases,” she told 60 Minutes.

“Now is really not the time for Australia to let its foot off the brake.

“This virus is very, very contagious, and I think you’re going to see new cases really soar.”

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a three-step plan for reopening the country by July, with a gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions that will differ from state to state.

Grayson said the lifting of restrictions could lead to a longer, more widespread lockdown. “If now you reopen and you see the cases come back, then you’re gonna have to lock down much more broadly and for longer.”

Kazuto Suzuki, professor of international politics at Hokkaido University warned against lifting restrictions too early.

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido was forced to return to a state of emergency after just 26 days following a second wave of infections.

“The second wave is definitely bigger than the first,” Professor Suzuki told the program.

“This is a very dangerous virus, you cannot relax.”

Professor Kenji Shibuya of King’s College London told BBC: “The major lesson to take from Hokkaido is that even if you are successful in the containment the first time around, it’s difficult to isolate and maintain the containment for a long period.

“Unless you expand the testing capacity, it’s difficult to identify community transmission and hospital transmission.”

The best way to get through the pandemic is testing, according to Dr Kamalini Lokuge, associate professor at Australian National University.

“Everybody who has early symptoms, a mild cough, sore throat, fever, they need to be able to know that they have to get tested and they need to be able to go somewhere and get tested as soon as possible,” Dr Lokuge said.

“We have that in place, we know everyone in our community has access to that. Then we have our ticket at this.”