ALL Australians should be preparing for a major outbreak of COVID-19, says a leading medical expert.

Speaking in an exclusive podcast, MJA Editor-in-Chief Laureate Professor Nick Talley AC, said that it was his belief that Australians had been feeling like we were not at risk.

“We need to be preparing for a major outbreak,” Professor Talley said.

Brace for a major COVID-19 outbreak - Featured Image“I’m hoping we don’t have one, but we ought to be both mentally and otherwise prepared for a major outbreak anywhere in the country.

“I think we’ve been feeling like we were not at risk and that we could just wait it out, get vaccinated, and we’d be fine.

“That’s not the way to be thinking about this at the moment.”

With Melbourne in its fourth lockdown of the pandemic, Professor Talley said he had two other major concerns.

“I’d be investing in hotel quarantine alternatives that will provide significant protection for those that are using those facilities. That’s key,” he said.

“That brings me to my third point, if and when you can get vaccinated, get vaccinated. Everyone needs to be vaccinated if possible, and that includes children.

“There’ll be some dispute and debate about this but there are data from the US, for example, that the mRNA vaccines are safe in children. The variants [of COVID-19] clearly can transmit in children and they are at risk.

“The arguments about should we vaccinate children or not are over. The emerging data are clear that children will need this, and that will be a big decision point for the government as well.”

While refusing to be drawn on whether state governments should bypass the federal constitutional responsibility for quarantine to build fit-for-purpose facilities, Professor Talley said there was no question hotel quarantine was not the ideal system.

“We know that hotels haven’t done too badly – the escape rate hasn’t been huge in terms of getting people infected and escaping out into the community,” he said. “Some people have estimated that at about half a per cent.

“But the trouble is, it’s still too many. Every few weeks, we’re getting an outbreak, basically, or at least somebody is potentially contaminating others. At some point, one of those is going to escape and cause havoc. Arguably, that’s happened in Melbourne, most recently.

“And it could happen, frankly, in any place where we have returned travelers who are quarantining in the hotel system.

“It appears that the Howard Springs [quarantine facility in the NT] is not a zero rate of escape, but it certainly is better because it’s a more outdoor environment with the ventilation issue largely not a problem.

“Ventilation seems to be absolutely key, and then protecting everybody with appropriate personal protective equipment when they’re in the hotels.

“There needs to be a step up by appropriate authorities to deal with this more effectively. I would argue this is overdue.”

Professor Talley said that it was likely that as much as 29% of the Australian population would not agree to be vaccinated, but he could not see how making the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory would be doable.

“If you’re working in aged care or health care, it should be mandatory,” he said. “If you don’t wish to do it, you should be given alternative employment which doesn’t put you in touch with vulnerable populations.

“[The fact is] if one-third of the population will not get vaccinated, despite everything, we will not have herd immunity with any of the vaccines we use.

“That means vulnerable populations who cannot get vaccinated, for whatever reason, will remain at very high risk. And of course those who refuse will be in high risk as well.”

Is Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination roll-out a race?

“Yes, absolutely,” said Professor Talley.

“The sooner we have most people vaccinated, the safer everyone will be.”



It is time the Commonwealth Government built fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities
  • Strongly agree (85%, 342 Votes)
  • Agree (8%, 34 Votes)
  • Strongly disagree (4%, 16 Votes)
  • Disagree (2%, 10 Votes)
  • Neutral (0%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 404

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13 thoughts on “Brace for a major COVID-19 outbreak

  1. N PATEL says:

    agree – we need facilities better than hotels and far from dense population for quarantine and similar puposes for now and in the future-MAKE IT MULTIPURPOSE , RENT IT OUT when not required . With lots of social media and negativity being spread about vaccines , achieving herd immunity for any dieases emerging will be impossible unless we make vaccination mandatory for everyone except those that have genuine medical reasons -Government should listen more to the medical experts rather than voters and anti vaxers with nil expertise in theses matters . Eradication or Elimination of diseases need drastic action from goverments and medical experts and mass vaccination programs !!

  2. Harpreet Singh says:

    Every person entering Australia (age irrelevant aside form perhaps under 1 yo’s) should be mRNA vaccinated at the ‘border’ before they enter quarantine regardless of previous vaccinations or past COVID illness also – I have no idea why this is not happening.

    I have two friends in India who have passed away from COVID recently and they both contracted COVID more than 3 weeks after their SECOND vax so there is a lot of ‘rubbish’ vaccinations going on overseas I am sure of that..

    It would help to get rid of the ‘day 13 to 17’ test and help protect our incoming population that are in medi-hotels as well as the staff managing quarantine facilities as well as the general population.

    I feel this is a no – brainer.

    In addition I would advocate all incomings to have 3 weeks at a Howard Springs type facility and thus they can have their 2nd mRNA vaccine on the day of exit from quarantine.

  3. Adrian Clifford says:

    We are not going to control this Coronavirus and its many variants until we reach herd immunity. That means that everyone who wants the vaccine should receive it regardless of age and the occasional bad reaction. I find it absolutely incredible that carers looking after frail elderly people are allowed to do so without being vaccinated.
    Perhaps financial incentives should be used to convince the 30%+ of naysayers to receive the vaccine and reduce the likely death rate when they become infected.

  4. Aida Partridge says:

    I totally agree with Professor Nick Talley’s message. Stand-alone quarantine facilities are vital.
    However we should remember that state governments managing hotel quarantine in their own way at times quite divergent from others. The lack of quarantine facilities, a previously unknown virus, outbreak of which was yet to evolve & local resources such as contact tracers or lack of them clearly proving a handicap

    Professor Talley speaks for most of us in recommending quarantine facilities fit-for-purpose, we should however encourage the states to attempt a common National approach in delivering & managing such facilities. I believe every state government as indeed the Federal government have strived to do their best to keep the community safe and cushioned from much of the misery other pasts of the world experienced

    To date, fractious approach and tip-toeing softly, I believe have contributed to people’s uncertainties and reluctance to take up the vaccine. Mental health issues are proving difficult to quantify as to how many are reactive as compared to those likely to be long-term, a challenge for a health system under strain from a community increasingly expectant of immediate government support in such unchartered times.

    It is with pride to see the medical profession remains a champion for the common good

  5. Anonymous says:

    you would have to be blind freddy not to realise that the dead space in quarantine hotel corridors would be a vector for viral transmission.
    Portable quarantine stations could be erected in a trice – so what’s the hold up?
    No traveller’s passport should be stamped for entry into australia utill they have be proven to be virus free
    Where are the self testing kits available in Europe and the States ?
    The costs of all of the tests we are currently doing must be enormous !
    Those who refuse the vaccine should not be given an intensive care bed if the develop illness due to COVID19

  6. Chris Davis says:

    We need to take a step back and reflect whether we need to have the vector of the contagion flying around the world at an unsustainable level, in the process also faciltating the emergence and transmission of new variants. Mankind managed very well prior to mass passenger air travel, and thanks to modern technology there are safe, effectvie and environmentally responsible ways of communicating.

  7. Dianne McNamara says:

    Many years ago I worked in a Quarantine facility in outer Perth. The original Facility was built following the second WW2 when migrates arrived from Europe

  8. Anonymous says:

    Make it mandatory for aged and medical care to be vaccinated

  9. Andrew Renaut says:

    All Australians should be preparing for a major outbreak of Covid-19. Who would have thought? Simply astonishing. Demonstrating perfectly, once again, that there’s absolutely nothing in this world that cannot be made worse by government intervention

  10. Val turner says:

    Does this include facilities already being built!

  11. John Meegan Occupational Physician says:

    Not only are many hotels Covid leaky but they create a bottleneck of small numbers of Australians who can return and without quarantine we are at risk of outbreaks, leading down fellow Australians and unable to re-open borders or travel with major economic implications such as for tourism and education. It is a major abrogation of Commonwealth responsibility not having built fit for purpose quarantine in each state which should’ve been occurring from six or 12 months ago.

  12. DR N Z AVRAMIDIS says:

    How do we recognise superspreaders, those who have been vaccinated , asymptomatic and spreading it through the community unkowingly, especiallly quarantine workers or hospital staff ?

  13. Stephen Page says:

    Quarantine facilities, I strongly agree, should be fit-for-many-purposes so that they can have keenly sought functions when quarantine is not necessary. It should not take much imagination to ensure they are not stark and brutalist but places that are comfortable, desirable and attractive. What a great opportunity to lay down the challenge to our architects of the future.

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