That many Australians now find themselves in such an enviable position would have been unthinkable only a month ago, during which nationwide daily infection rates reached into triple figures. But on Friday, the entire country reported just 16 new cases, a sharp decline from a peak of 460 new infections on March 28.
“No more cases in South Australia. This is a landmark for us,” South Australia Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said with a big smile during a press briefing on Wednesday.
“I think many people are surprised in Australia at how well we have done. Really, when you look across all the states and territories, this is the safest place to be in the world, perhaps other than New Zealand,” she said.
Neighboring country New Zealand recently achieved its ambitious goal of “eliminating” the coronavirus, meaning that while the daily infection rate has yet to reach zero, the country is able to track the origins of each new case.
In total, Australia has reported 6,762 confirmed cases, of which 92 have died and 5,720 have recovered, according to the federal health authority.
“We’re continuing to do very well around Australia to suppress the virus and we have well and truly flattened the curve of cases and new infections,” said a spokesperson for the Australian Department of Health in a statement Thursday to CNN.
“Safety has been our fundamental focus and the success of our suppression strategy has meant Australia is in a very similar (place) to New Zealand, which has stated its strategy is aimed at elimination.”
Australia’s success in taming the outbreak started with early measures to bar entry from high-risk areas.
On February 1, Australia joined the United States in closing its borders to all foreign visitors who had recently been in China, where the outbreak was first reported in December last year.
“What we’re doing is closing down gatherings in pubs and clubs and things of that nature, we’re not putting in place lockdowns that would confine people to their home,” Morrison said at the time.
The state of Victoria closed schools, and some states, such as West Australia and South Australia, closed their borders, requiring anyone to enter to go into two weeks of quarantine.
Ever expanding testing
While closure of businesses, schools, travel restrictions and social distancing rules are common measures adopted by many governments around the world, Australia also paired these restrictions with widespread testing.
In comparison, the United Kingdom, with a population more than 2.5 times of Australia, has carried out 763,387 tests.
Last week, the criteria was further expanded to anyone displaying even the mildest symptoms for Covid-19, Federal Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy announced.
Drawing ire from Beijing
While Australia appears to be successfully containing the coronavirus, it has become embroiled in a diplomatic spat with China after it demanded an international inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak.
The push quickly drew the ire of Beijing, which slammed the move as “political maneuvering.”
“This is a virus that has taken more than 200,000 lives across the world. It has shut down the global economy. The implications and impacts of this are extraordinary,” he said.
“It would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again…I believe there will be support for at the right time, to ensure we do that,” added Morrison.