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Estimating measures to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Australia to guide a ‘National Plan’ to reopening


  • Ryan, Gerard E.
  • Shearer, Freya M.
  • McCaw, James M.
  • McVernon, Jodie
  • Golding, Nick


Epidemics, Volume 47, 2024-06-30

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The availability of COVID-19 vaccines promised a reduction in the severity of disease and relief from the strict public health and social measures (PHSMs) imposed in many countries to limit spread and burden of COVID-19. We were asked to define vaccine coverage thresholds for Australia’s transition to easing restrictions and reopening international borders. Using evidence of vaccine effectiveness against the then-circulating Delta variant, we used a mathematical model to determine coverage targets. The absence of any COVID-19 infections in many sub-national jurisdictions in Australia posed particular methodological challenges. We used a novel metric called Transmission Potential (TP) as a proxy measure of the population-level effective reproduction number. We estimated TP of the Delta variant under a range of PHSMs, test-trace-isolate-quarantine (TTIQ) efficiencies, vaccination coverage thresholds, and age-based vaccine allocation strategies. We found that high coverage across all ages ( ≥ 70 % ) combined with ongoing TTIQ and minimal PHSMs was sufficient to avoid lockdowns. At lesser coverage ( ≤ 60 % ) rapid case escalation risked overwhelming of the health sector or the need to reimpose stricter restrictions. Maintaining low case numbers was most beneficial for health and the economy, and at higher coverage levels ( ≥ 80 % ) further easing of restrictions was deemed possible. These results directly informed easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Australia.