Tegan Taylor: Hello, this is Coronacast, a podcast all about the coronavirus. I'm health reporter Tegan Taylor.Norman Swan: And I'm physician and journalist Dr Norman Swan. It's Monday, 19 October. And a great day, don't you think, Tegan?Tegan Taylor: A great day if you're a Victorian, and a great day for the rest of the country because of what Victorians have been doing for the last weeks on end.Norman Swan: Yes, it's been an extraordinary lockdown, and people making sacrifices for themselves, for each other, for their families, for Victoria, and for all those people who are not in Victoria, they've been making sacrifices for the rest of the country, to get this under control because it's an important thing to do for the whole nation, not just for Victoria.Tegan Taylor: Absolutely. So we've been doing a podcast about the coronavirus for the past few months, if you haven't been paying attention, and doing that, we can get a bit stuck in the weeds, and we've been focusing a lot on Victoria and the spread there and the restrictions there, and the tone of that, taken as a whole, could be seen as quite negative, but really it's such a success story when you think about the fact that they were at hundreds and hundreds of cases just a few months ago, and over the weekend they only had one or two cases a day, and it's due to individuals' hard work.Norman Swan: Yes, as we've said many, many times over the months on Coronacast, there's really only&when it's out of control there's only one thing that you can do and that is social distancing in the extreme and that becomes a lockdown and that's what they've done in Victoria and it has brought it under control. And it's brought it under control as well, if not better, than any other country in the world. I've just been looking at some of these statistics before we started this, and if you look at Singapore, which is what I quoted the other day where they really quite a bad outbreak in their dormitory areas for their migrant workers, that averaged several hundred a day, but as far as I could see whilst they got to about 900 a day in the first wave of the pandemic, they never got that high in the second wave, so it was steadily 300, 400, 500 a day but never 700 a day where it got to in Victoria. They too are down at single digits but only just in single digits. They've been in double digits in Singapore prior to the last few days. So Melbourne at least equals Singapore, in fact exceeds it.South Korea has done pretty well with some significant outbreaks, but again it got up to 300, 400 a day, not 700 a day, and that's in a country of 51 million, and they are now trucking along at about 70-odd a day, not single digits, admittedly in a country that is eight or nine times the population of Victoria. So, incredibly well by any standards, and something that all Australians should be proud of and indeed grateful to Victorians for.Tegan Taylor: Absolutely. And of course we are not at the finish line yet. Victoria&well, the whole country isn't out of the woods yet in terms of the virus, and also there is still a fair way to go in terms of lockdown restrictions in Victoria. But it's a huge relief, I'm sure, for the people who live there, and for all of us to see that needle really shifting down now.Norman Swan: Yes. Some people will be saying, well, why couldn't we have gone further since we are at a handful of cases. We are recording this Coronacast before we know what today's numbers are from Victoria but they will be low unless there is a small outbreak somewhere. And why couldn't we have gone to the same level as New South Wales, which has actually got on average more cases than Victoria has. And I think that the reason is that Victoria is still in mop-up phase, and the number of mystery cases (in other words cases where they don't know where people have caught the virus), I think yesterday the premier said it was around about 15 cases are still unknown. That means there is still a fair bit of virus around, you could possibly double that for the real number of mystery cases. So you've really got to be able to tie that down. But the contact tracing and testing&so the testing rates yesterday were I think 18,500, a really great number, particularly the people of Shepparton have also stepped up to the plate and got tested. And they are closing off on the cases much faster now, so people are getting the tests faster and mysteries are getting closed off faster, and that's exactly where they need to be. And so it's just having that bit too much virus circulating means they've got to take their foot off the brake a bit more slowly.But remember, two cases yesterday is actually what happened in Victoria five to 10 days before that. It does you're head in thinking about that but that's the reflection, that's how long it takes. So if people are continuing to do the right thing now, it really does mean quite low numbers, and we don't have a breakout in those mystery cases. That really means that in five to seven days from now we could really be in good shape, which is I assume why Dan Andrews said next weekend they could consider moving forward, the relaxation that they were planning for November 1 to next weekend.Tegan Taylor: Yes, one of our Coronacast listeners has written in saying that we need to focus on what Australia has achieved with lockdowns and hard borders. This person is saying compared with the USA or the UK, Australia has avoided 18 deaths per day for the past 300 days, on average if you look at the per capita numbers that you're seeing overseas, and that's what keeps them going, and it's a great achievement that all Australians can be really proud of.Norman Swan: Yes, I haven't seen exactly those numbers, I thought they were actually higher than that in terms of numbers saved. But you've seen what can happen overseas when you've still got a lot of virus circulating, you let your foot off the pedal too quickly. In their case it's getting colder, people are going indoors, and the virus is taking off again in really large numbers. Even in places where they've got testing under control, it's still not good enough. Britain still doesn't have testing under control and Britain is hugely vulnerable. But once you've got a lot of virus around, you don't have firm borders, it just spins away from you. This virus finds every chink in the armour.Tegan Taylor: It's funny you say that because it kind of brings us to a sort of strange and perhaps cautionary tale from New Zealand where someone who works at the port in Auckland has tested positive for COVID-19, and I think it sounds like he probably caught it when doing work on a ship from overseas. And New Zealand has been held up as a real posterchild for stamping out Covid, and yet there this case that has managed to pop up because you can't completely cut yourself off from the outside world.Norman Swan: No, we can't, there's trade going on all the time. There is internal trade in Australia moving between Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, the rest of the country, so you can't stop that. And, as Western Australia has found, they've had at least two occasions with ships bringing in quite significant numbers of COVID-19 cases in. While we are an island, we are still vulnerable and New Zealand has found that. And what's good about New Zealand, like us, is that they've got their act together, find these cases and they don't seem to have spread too far by the time they get on top of them. And I suppose that's what you might call the new Covid. And we might talk about the new Covid a bit more tomorrow.Tegan Taylor: Can I ask you to indulge me, Norman, and just speculate for a bit&Norman Swan: I indulge you every single day of the week, Tegan, come on.Tegan Taylor: Sure do! What would it have looked like if Victoria had it gone the hard lockdown that they did?Norman Swan: I think the country to look at is Israel which has not handled this well. They handled it quite well in the first wave but not in the second wave it went out of control, and it's a country with not too dissimilar population to Victoria. And you've looked at the figures, Tegan, recently.Tegan Taylor: Yes, according to the Worldometers website, Israel has had more than 302,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,000 deaths.Norman Swan: And so that's where we could have got to, and we could have had a much worse outbreak in residential aged care, and we are hearing from Europe that some countries are worried now about their ICU and ventilator capacity. So that's where we could have got to in Victoria. It doesn't matter if there's a relatively small population, in can get a very high proportion of the population infected quite quickly.Tegan Taylor: What about life in Australia more broadly, what would that have looked like?Norman Swan: Well, let's just scenario-play this. If New South Wales had not locked down its border with Victoria, then those Victorian cases would have leaked into New South Wales in very, very large numbers, rather than the one or two cases that were super-spreading in New South Wales. And look at the trouble those one or two cases caused in New South Wales. And even the one or two that got into Queensland, they created headaches. So it wouldn't have been too long before New South Wales would have had the same second wave as Victoria because very soon the testing capacity would have been overwhelmed. If New South Wales had shut its borders around the time that it did in the same fashion, then there probably would not have been too different a situation in New South Wales.The difference would be for Victorians and the nation because we'd be that much further away from opening up the internal borders of Australia, and in fact the Victorian economy would have been much more seriously damaged than it has been.Tegan Taylor: I mean, no one can really know what would have happened, but thanks Vic, and also we are making educated guesses here based on what we are seeing happening in real time overseas.Norman Swan: The counterfactual Coronacast.Tegan Taylor: Well, that's all we've got time for on Coronacast today. Norman Swan: If you've got a question, please send it in to our website, abc.net.au/coronacast, go to the 'Ask a Question' button and mention Coronacast in your question because we love getting them and they stimulate a lot of great conversation.Tegan Taylor: And you can leave a comment if you have a different potential past or future that you think Norman should have said. Don't forget to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts as well if you can because we love reading.Norman Swan: We'll see you tomorrow.
Tegan Taylor: See you then.