Community undersold in Australia’s response to COVID-19

27 July 2020

Burnet Institute Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC believes the critical importance of the community and community-informed research have been undersold in Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and need to be urgently prioritised.

In a broad-ranging interview with Patricia Karvelas on ABC Television’s Afternoon Briefing, Professor Crabb said:

  • A slowdown of new cases does not mean Victoria has ‘turned the corner’
  • The reimposition of lockdowns in other Australian states is not inevitable
  • The deployment of defence personnel to assist with contact tracing is reasonable
  • Elimination of community spread of COVID-19 is achievable
  • Vaccine trials appear promising and Australia must support access for low- and middle-income countries when a vaccine becomes available

But it’s through a focus on community, and communities, that Australia stands to make significant progress towards eliminating COVID-19.

“I think you’re getting at the heart of epidemic and pandemic control,” Professor Crabb said.

“How do you influence people to do what you want them to do? How do all the different and varied subsections of our community stay informed and stay motivated? I can tell you they’re not all influenced just by a national or state-based press conference.

“It shines a big light on the fact that a community-centric response really hasn’t been strongly activated in Australia. Those of us who work on HIV or have experience with other epidemics in the past know that without that you can’t really sustain an effective response.”

Complementing community empowerment, Professor Crabb said, is the need for a better understanding of what individual communities think and feel about their particular needs and circumstances.

“To have people getting tested complying with whatever the government wants, using masks, is going to need community informed research,” he said.

“What do aged-care workers, for example, tell us about what would work for them? What do those who live in high-rise apartments tell us what would work for them?

“That’s a science and that’s a science that is quite sophisticated. It works in other fields and has not yet been activated in Australia.”

“We know that we have the tools in the toolkit to knock this virus on its head. We need the community to buy into that.”

Read the original media release.


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