SYDNEY, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) warned that completely relaxing health orders could lead to a new surge of COVID-19 cases once Australian cities begin to open their borders to international travellers later this year.
The modelling study, led by Mark Hanly from the Center for Big Data Research in Health at the UNSW Sydney, was released to the public in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday. It predicted a peak of 2,000 COVID-19 patients in intensive care after the reopening.
As of Sunday, 293 patients across Australia were in intensive care with severe cases of COVID-19.
"Herd protection against COVID-19 will be difficult to achieve in Australia" and "mass vaccination is unlikely to achieve complete protection against COVID-19," read the study.
In the model, three variables were assessed, including transmissibility, vaccine rollout speed and the scale of the borders reopening.
Hanly said the study showed potential surge of case numbers and breakthrough hospitalizations, with the highly transmissible Delta variant, which has a reproductive number of 7.0 compared with the Alpha variant's 3.5.
He suggested that even with vaccination rates of over 80 percent in the adult population, Australian authorities should still expect to have to implement health measures, which may include maintaining mask wearing and social distancing, and limiting the amount of people that enter into Australia.
"Political and health system policymakers should not focus exclusively on defining vaccination thresholds at which particular restrictions might be removed."
"Instead, they should recognize that mass vaccination is unlikely to achieve complete protection against COVID-19, and that health system capacity will still be at risk in the most realistic vaccination coverage scenarios if local chains of transmission are active or the international border is opened while local restrictions on social contact are minimal."
The most recent governmental data on Australia's vaccination rollout showed that 68.33 percent of the over-16 population were fully vaccinated and 84.79 percent had at least one dose. Enditem