NSW reopening carefully watched around Australia, experts say

Professor Jaya Dantas of Curtin University’s School of Population Health stated the relief of restrictions heralded the start of Australia studying to “live with the virus”.

“I think it is a very good move that we are opening up and the country will be watching how things pan out,” Prof Dantas advised AAP.

“The outbreak has moved from an epidemic to a pandemic and in some ways it is going to be endemic for years to come.

“We must discover ways to handle it and I actually consider we will.”

Prof Dantas said high vaccination rates and public health measures were important to keep the spread under control but Australia was behind when it came to rapid antigen testing, which would be crucial to identifying cases moving forward.

“We want full approval of speedy antigen testing throughout Australia they usually must be obtainable in pharmacies at no cost or at a low value,” she stated.

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The at-home nasal swabs will be available in Australia from 1 November but it is unclear how they will slot into each jurisdiction’s public health measures, where they will be available and what they will cost.

Meanwhile, public transport services will return to a Monday-to-Friday timetable in NSW with 18,000 more train, bus and ferry services.

Honorary associate of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney Yale Wong said it was “unchartered territory” to be opening up with high case numbers and there were still unresolved issues when it came to transmission on public transport.

“We want air flow plans,” he said. “Public transport (providers) are confined environments and that could be a large challenge.”

Dr Wong said it was hard to observe social distancing on buses and trains while cleaning and sanitising measures were “susceptible to error and inconsistency”.

He suggested the government invest in “stand-by fleets” as outbreaks on popular transport routes were likely in the coming months.

“We want to make sure there aren’t these weak hyperlinks,” he stated.

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Professor Marc Stears from the Sydney Policy Lab on the University of Sydney says the flexibility for individuals to see their family and friends to have a good time, grieve and catch up can have “profound penalties” for their mental health.

“What the proof more and more exhibits is that social isolation, loneliness, disconnection has had actually horrible penalties for lots of people,” Prof Stears said.

He referred to a study published in The Lancet last week by researchers from Australia and the US who found cases of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders had increased by more than 25 per cent across 204 countries and territories in 2020.

While there has been buzz around reopening large venues, Prof Stears said home visits and smaller gatherings were just as important for social connection.

“We are all understandably anxious and nervous about what’s going to occur and whether or not the case charges will go up and if hospitals will cope,” he said.

“These are vital considerations however there’s a big quantity of proof around the world about what has occurred elsewhere and we’re comparatively late to the opening up sport.”

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