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Sunday, 5 April 2020

New cases fall again

Shaka Demus & fires

Being a Prime Minister is a gruelling job at the best of times, but what an intense year Scott Morrison is having, with a series of rolling crises almost from the moment he seized control and won the election.

The shock result at the polls gave way to little time to be wasted, as a worsening drought escalated into the worst bushfires in years.

The government was always on the back foot after the infamous lump of coal in parliament incident.

And the optics deteriorated further when Morrison was inadvertently snapped flipping the 'Shaka' hand signal while enjoying a few bevvies on hols in Hawaii, while back home rural communities grappled with catastrophic devastation.

No sooner was that crisis fading from the headlines, than came the Coronavirus.

Cases decline

While nobody wants to jump the gun and declare that Australia is winning the battle with the highly contagious COVID-19 virus, the numbers have quietly continued to improve all week.

New confirmed cases declined to just 190 yesterday, far below the peak of 460 back on March 28, and so the curve for total cases has been flattening. 

This is highly unusual for an Anglophone country of Australia's population size, where there isn't necessarily the strong social norm towards obedience (let alone use of facemasks) seen in some Asian countries or elsewhere in the world.

On the other hand, the snarks might quip drily that living in a nanny state may have a few positives after all!

But whatever the reasons, the numbers this week have been surprisingly improving.

At the state level, New South Wales saw 104 confirmed cases yesterday, well down from the daily peak of 212 on March 28, for a growth rate of +4.4 per cent. 

All other states and territories saw just 30 or fewer confirmed new cases yesterday, and growth rates have eased off significantly.

Jungle drums beating

Since New South Wales isn't reporting totals for recoveries, we have to make some  assumptions on how many cases remain 'live' so to speak. 

It's too early to say we're out of the woods yet, since there have been nearly 4,500 cases over the past 14 days.

As such we need to wait to see how these known cases transmit into the wider community.

Nevertheless, analysts will be watching this week's figures very closely for any further signs of improvement.

With so many parts of Australia recording only very low case figures, already the right-wing media is calling for the economy to be opened for business again, while the government insists that for now the 'suppression phase' must continue.

How and when the economy is allowed to open for trade again remains an impossibly deft decision, with the risks to be weighed up on each side. 

A widespread and rigorous test-and-trace program seems likely to be the most sustainable way to proceed, while the borders can't reasonably be opened until there's a proven method for testing all entrants (and quarantining where necessary).

Meanwhile, everyone in Australia hopes for some more good news this week.

Queensland reported just 9 new cases this morning - the lowest in weeks - while for Victoria the figure was only 20.

With New South Wales also reporting a fall the early indications point to fewer than 150 new cases today.