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Lockdowns to be ‘part of the Australian way of life’ until everyone is vaccinated


Anastasia Tsirtsakis


29/03/2021 3:40:42 PM

Greater Brisbane’s three-day snap lockdown has added further pressure to overstretched general practices already navigating a backlog of health concerns and the COVID vaccine rollout.

A map of Brisbane.
Greater Brisbane will enter a three-day lockdown on Monday, with masks mandatory at all times outside the home.

Dr Bruce Willett’s clinic in Brisbane’s south-east was inundated with phone calls on Monday morning.
 
The state had just recorded 10 new coronavirus cases and anxious patients were seeking clarity over the three-day snap lockdown and what impact it would have on the COVID vaccine rollout.
 
The lockdown includes residents of Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, Redlands, and Moreton, and only permits them to leave home for essential reasons, while masks have been made mandatory across the state.
 
According to Dr Willett, RACGP Vice-President and Chair of RACGP Queensland, the announcement will place added pressure on many general practices, most of which are already ‘running at capacity’.
 
‘It’s a big strain as we’re trying to meet the backlog of demands that occurred from previous lockdowns, as well as rolling out the COVID vaccine,’ he told newsGP.
 
‘The fact that now we’ve got community [transmission] is just going to put extra pressure on the receptionists with people wanting vaccines more urgently.
 
‘They’re already having to deal with just impossible numbers of phone calls and the announcement of the lockdown this morning has made a really difficult situation worse for them.’
 
Four of the 10 new COVID cases were acquired locally; two are colleagues of the 26-year-old landscaper who tested positive to the highly infectious UK strain on Thursday, while the other two cases are a nurse who worked on the COVID-19 ward at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and has been on leave, and her sister.
 
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the lockdown is a necessary step if the state wants to avoid a longer shutdown.
 
‘By today declaring that greater Brisbane [is] a hotspot, I’m asking all other state and territory leaders to do exactly the same,’ she said.
 
‘Hopefully, fingers crossed, like our last three-day lockdown it [will give] our contact tracers the opportunity to get on top of everything.’
 
The state’s second snap lockdown comes just weeks after similar lockdowns in Victoria and Perth, while Adelaide also imposed a six-day lockdown last year.
 
Premier Palaszczuk said lockdowns will be ‘part of the Australian way of life until everyone is vaccinated’.
  
Dr Willett agrees, stating they will likely be the only option where there are cases of community transmission with no known origin, despite  the consequences for people’s mental health.
 
However, he said questions still remain over whether the vaccines will be a ‘golden ticket’ to a return to a pre-pandemic normal.
 
‘We’ve done well in this country with an elimination goal and it’s served us better from a health and an economic point of view to try and eliminate it. So [while] it’s painful, I can’t see an alternative other than to continue to aim for elimination of the virus from community spread,’ Dr Willett said.
 
‘But we don’t know what will constitute herd immunity with any of these vaccines, so it remains to be seen what the level is … [where] we won’t have to do this, and whether or not we will actually achieve that with a significant amount of vaccine resistance in the community.
 
‘So that’s the thing that will obviously make the difference to this in the medium- to long- term.
 
What remains evident, Dr Willett says, is the need for high vaccine uptake – but he anticipates GPs may face particular challenges when they turn their attention to phases 2a and b of the rollout.
 
‘We know that younger people are more likely to have minor but unpleasant reactions to the vaccine and are less likely to get the consequences of COVID,’ he said.
 
‘So when the time comes to do them, they’re going to shape up to be a difficult group to access – and yet are going to be essential if we’re to achieve herd immunity and avoid lockdowns.
 
‘That’s going to be where the huge challenge arrives for public health officials and GPs.’
 
At this stage, Dr Willett says the lockdown is ‘unlikely’ to delay the vaccine rollout in Brisbane, given the limited supply of vaccine doses still being received by practices.
 
‘We have about 20,000 active patients, and we’ve gone up from 80 to 100 vaccines per week. So it’s a drop in the bucket,’ he said.
 
‘My next vaccine clinic is scheduled for tomorrow; it will be interesting to see how many no shows we get.
 
‘We’re booked out for six weeks. So if we get a significant number of no shows, I’ll actually just ring up patients on the waiting list and ask them to come in and use those vaccines. So it should be possible to adjust to that.’
 
However, Dr Willett says it is clear that GPs will be faced with a difficult and ongoing challenge in the aftermath of the pandemic.
 
‘It does underline the importance of the continuation of telehealth, particularly in supporting people through what’s a difficult time with mental health,’ he said.
 
We have seen emergency departments having increasing loads all around the country, and certainly around Queensland, in all categories of patients and a lot of that is due to previous lockdowns.
 
‘It demonstrates the importance of general practice and that the access to general practice is properly funded, and [the need for] people to still look after their normal health requirements through these lockdowns.’
 
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Dr Charles Raymond Ellis   30/03/2021 8:41:22 AM

What governments need to do is stop disrupting lives by ceasing international arrivals. Putting the lives of millions of australians at risk for a few individuals who havent lived in australia for some time is ludicrous. Of course there will be a few exceptions to this, but not thousands as it currently stands.