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Biosecurity expert calls for school closures, more social distancing

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80 per cent of Australians need to stay at home to ‘flatten the curve’ of coronavirus infections according to a leading biosecurity expert.

Professor Raina MacIntyre, Head of UNSW’s Biosecurity Program and part of Government’s expert panel from the Group of Eight universities, is calling for schools and shopping centres to be closed.

Poor communication from the media and government, she tells Deborah Knight, is leading young people to believe they’re not at risk despite a significant number of infections and deaths among the demographic.

“We’ve interpreted the absence of evidence as evidence of absence when it comes to disease in children and young adults,” she says.

“We know that lots of young adults died in China. The two largest age groups, when I’ve looked at … cases confirmed in Australia, are in the young adult age group.

“We’ve also had a case study of 2000+ children published last week which showed that only 50 per cent had mild infection. 30 per cent were actually moderately ill, and 6 per cent were critically ill, and one 14-year-old died.”

The biosecurity expert suggests school holidays could’ve been extended to include the last two weeks of Term 1 and first two weeks of Term 2, helping to slow the virus’ spread and allow hospitals to keep up with demand.

“We can hope for the best and say ‘yes it’ll be okay’, but… for social distancing to work, it has to be simultaneous and comprehensive.

“It’s pretty much unachievable with keeping schools open.”

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Image: Getty/Andrew Merry