In December 2020, the Academy published a report looking to 2021 and asking how Australia can continue to successfully manage the pandemic.
The report, ‘Maintaining strong foundations and building resilience: planning Australia’s path through the COVID-19 pandemic’, concluded that for the foreseeable future, national control of the COVID-19 pandemic will need to be driven by:
- Ongoing implementation of comprehensive public health measures. High levels of swab testing for the SARS CoV-2 virus coupled with contact tracing, isolation and quarantine will be crucial. This should be set alongside physical distancing, enforced if needed, the judicious use of face masks and effective controls at international borders. This approach needs to be increasingly driven by communication and service delivery approaches that are community-centric (i.e. bottom up as well as top down).
- Optimal roll-out of effective and safe vaccines, treatments and other interventions as they become available, including improved antigen based diagnostics to provide rapid options for active case detection.
- Effective prevention and management of the long-term health issues arising from the pandemic, especially mental ill health and the effects of long COVID. Prevention and treatment programs must especially target populations who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, including health professionals, older people, those in low socioeconomic groups and our First Nations peoples.
- Australia’s contribution to global management of the pandemic, in particular, through support of our neighbours in the region.
- Sustained and enhanced support for research and innovation to continue to deliver the knowledge and tools required to tackle the pandemic- even when case numbers are low.
The Academy identified 15 actions in four areas, which will equip Australia to continue its successful management of the pandemic:
- Creating effective systems and capabilities to develop, manufacture and distribute vaccines, treatments and diagnostics.
- Monitoring the health impacts of COVID-19 within Australia, and the acceptability, safety, efficacy and uptake of vaccines, treatments and other interventions.
- Enabling ethical and equitable roll out of vaccines, treatments and other interventions.
- Responding to the evolution of the pandemic through a readiness to modify public health measures appropriately.
The report concluded that delivering these actions successfully will bring additional, longer term benefits, by enhancing our ability to respond to future pandemics.
The report was developed in liaison with the Academy’s COVID-19 Expert Committee, which brings together interdisciplinary expertise from the Academy’s Fellowship. It was reviewed by the Academy’s Council and approved for publication by the Academy’s Executive. It was published alongside an underlying background briefing, ‘COVID-19 key tools and measures – where are we now?’, which summarised the evidence behind the review.
Image credit: Christian Emmer | emmer.com.ar