Analysis of the latest government data on coronavirus shows that infections obtained locally exceeded the number of infections obtained overseas during the past four days.
This analysis also shows growth in locally acquired cases slowing down New South Wales and Victoria, two states that provide detailed data.
As part of our regular updates on Australia’s progress in leveling the curve, we look at some common questions from readers.
The health minister, Greg Hunt, said yesterday Australia had made “real progress” in reducing infection rates, say 3AW: “We went down from more than 25%, almost 30% a few weeks ago, every day to lower teens, then under 10% and now under 5%.”
Despite this progress, one of the most frequently asked questions is whether local transmission is increasing. The situation is not clear because it is difficult to access the latest information.
Only two countries publish data showing the source of transmission for all cases from time to time. Australian Guardian collects data a week from daily media releases from the Prime Minister’s Department and the Cabinet.
This media release has figures for each state and territory, and shows that new cases with local origin are higher than new cases with foreign origins since April 4. It is also important to note that a large number of cases are being investigated at any point in time, and these figures can change retrospectively with further updates.
Long-term views of similar figures from NSW and Victoria indicates the same new switch, but also shows that the number of cases obtained locally decreases.
Professor Peter Collignon, an infectious disease expert at the Australian National University, said data from NSW showed if there was transmission in the community, it was at a low level.
He said compared to South Korea, Japan and Singapore, Australia kept local transmissions lower.
“We close our bars and pubs and museums when other countries don’t,” he said.
“We have done better than leveling the curve – we have turned it over, but I don’t think it will be zero. We must assume that there is a low level of the virus, and there will be a low level for a while. “
Two other questions most often asked by readers are about corona virus testing:
Is the downward trend in new daily cases due to bias in our test criteria for travel-related cases?
Is the downward trend in new cases every day the result of a decrease in testing, or testing in capacity?
Test numbers compiled by covid19data.com.au and the Australian Guardian shows that the number of new tests reported per day has recently declined in several states, like NSW, but it seems relatively stable, or increasing, in others.
Testing criteria was recently expanded in several states and territories.
Prof. Allen Cheng, an epidemiologist at Monash University, said testing criteria among health workers and inpatients had been widened, and this would help clear up the picture of the relationship with local testing and transmission.
“Now there is a reasonable test capacity, but there is a decrease in people who come for testing, at least in our clinic,” he said. “This may be partly due to fewer cases (a lot of the drop has been linked to a lower number of returning tourists), but whether there may be other factors involved is not entirely clear.”
Collignon said there was a bias towards testing people related to overseas travel. But he said this also shows that “we have the epidemic [related to travel] under control “.
He said if this bias causes local transmission cases to be missed, it will appear in other data and enter the hospital – but not at this time.
“If you look at data from NSW now, they plan local transmissions and they also go down. If we lose a lot of things, we will see exponential growth in cases that are obtained locally but that are flat or falling. “
For Prime Minister and Cabinet Department data, total local cases are the sum of three categories: “Local acquisition – known”, “Local acquisition – unknown”, and “Local acquisition – interstate travel”. Data collected is available here, but the original PDF is not available online. Only media releases until March 28 are available.
Figures for NSW and Victoria are compiled from daily media releases, and the combined number of local cases is the sum of two categories – local contact with known cases or clusters, and obtained in Australia from unknown sources.
Australia official report to the World Health Organization it does contain details of the place of acquisition for most cases, but there is a significant lag time for reporting.
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