Australia is headed towards an eye-watering number of cases, according to modelling based on the current daily number of infections.
Australia is hurtling towards a collective active caseload of almost two million Covid infections – almost one in 13 people – according to modelling based on the current daily number of infections, and that’s at the low end of the estimate.
The University of Melbourne developed an interactive website that gives a ten-day forecast, by country, of likely numbers of Covid-19 cases.
At the time of writing, the website was last updated on Wednesday and showed Australia had, in total, 448,497 current active cases – which are total number of infections minus deaths and recoveries.
It states the current doubling time for cases is 4.3 days, based on the previous daily caseloads.
Before you freak out as we delve into the numbers, it is important to point out the modelling is also based on previous strains where it was estimated it would take several weeks for an infection to clear.
With Omicron in particular, which is the more dominant strain in Australia now, the time it takes for an the infection to clear is understood to be a lot shorter.
This means that many of the “active cases” mentioned in the modelling would have already recovered from Omicron and the real number of active cases would be considerably lower.
On the flip side, there is also understood to be a high level of undetected spread, particularly in NSW, at the present moment – which the modelling doesn’t take into consideration as it’s based on official figures recorded via PCR testing.
The modelling shows that Australia will have 1,904,505 active cases by next Saturday on the low end of the scale. For context, the current number of active cases nationwide is 448,497.
On the high end, it shows Australia will have 2,574,449 active cases by January 15 – which is more than one-in-ten Australians.
This projection is based on the raw data (the app uses data collated by the team at John Hopkins University) and assumes simply that the number of cases grows at the same rate that it has been growing over the last ten days.
It also breaks down cases by each state.
In NSW, the active case number by January 15 is 1,080,755 at the low end and 1,572,836 at the high. The population of the state is just over 8.16 million people – meaning that roughly one-in-eight people could have the virus by that date, according to the modelling.
In the second worst hit state in the current outbreak, Victoria, the modelling shows that there could be between 315,509 and 500,319 active cases by January 15.
The modelling also looks at other states and territories like Queensland (266,084 – 621,700), South Australia (126,507 – 286,657), Tasmania (58,066 – 215,779) and NT (25,777 – 60,382).
Associate Professor Ben Phillips, one of the experts behind the system admitted the way it worked out the predictions was “crude” but that Australia’s “staggering” rate of case growth was leading to “huge” numbers in the 10-day modelling.
“It is huge and it’s surprising,” he told news.com.au “This is just one of the surprising consequences of exponential growth.
“However, when it becomes a large proportion of the population, this model starts to not be as appropriate. And the reason for that is once you get up to a reasonable portion of the population (who) have the virus and have some immunity to it, the growth rates start to not be constant, they start to drop by very large numbers.”
He also added that Australia was in a much better position than it was in previous waves. So, despite the “daunting” number of projected cases, the real numbers we should focus on are hospitalisations and deaths.
“With Omicron and the fact that so many of us are double and triple-vaxxed, certainly those numbers are very, very low now,” he said. “So we’re in a much, much better situation.”
Another positive sign is that authorities, in NSW at least, believe the current wave may be starting to peak.
Premier Dominic Perrottet revealed new rules on Friday, which will last until January 27, at a press conference on Friday afternoon after the state recorded 38,625 new cases.
“Today we are making some sensible and proportionate changes as we move through this next period as the peak of Omicron comes through,” Mr Perrottet said.
“This is a challenging time, not just in NSW, but around the world, but the efforts that our people have made has kept NSW safe, has kept NSW open and kept NSW strong.”
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