COVID-19 spreads rapidly in NT as reproduction rate hits 4.5, but health experts say increase is temporary
The Northern Territory reopened its borders less than three weeks ago, and since then the number of COVID-19 cases and community transmission have increased.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, the territory broke its daily record for new coronavirus cases, with the number roughly doubling in each 24-hour period.
As of Thursday, the effective number of COVID-19 breeding in the NT stood at 4.5.
This trend isn’t necessarily alarming, health experts say, as similar patterns were seen in other states and territories when they reopened.
But what exactly is an effective reproduction number?
And why are authorities urging people to stay calm amid the growing number of cases?
Rapid increase in part of the “epidemic curve”
The actual number of reproductions of a disease is one way of measuring its degree of contagiousness.
It refers to the number of people in a population who can be infected by an individual with this disease at any given time.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said in the NT that number was 4.5.
Most people infected with the virus are in the Greater Darwin area and are between 20 and 40 years old.
But health experts say that while the number is high, it’s not unexpected.
Catherine Bennett, president of epidemiology at Deakin University, said the effective reproduction number of NT was comparable to other states and territories that had reopened their borders and where the Omicron variant was present.
“If I look at the daily [reproduction] numbers, they jumped to 4.2 on December 17 in Sydney, when their number of cases really took off. And Victoria, yesterdayâ¦ it was around 3.2 and it was 3.5 earlier in the week, âshe said.
âWhile 3.5, 4.5 [rate] that’s what you can expect to see in the early days. “
She said the young population of the NT and the large number of communities were factors which meant that COVID-19 could spread a little more in the territory than elsewhere.
Peter Collignon, professor at the Australian National University School of Medicine, also said the rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases reflected what had happened in other parts of Australia as well as ‘abroad, before they decrease and then reach a plateau.
He predicted the same would happen in the NT in the next few weeks.
âIt goes up and up, then stabilizes and then comes down,â he said.
“What they saw in South Africa is what they see in [the UK].
Vaccination, masks the best protection
Dr Collignon said even though the high rate of the spread of COVID-19 in the NT was temporary, it was still worrying to see.
And he said it was an important reminder for the inhabitants of the territory to protect themselves as much as possible.
“[People should] do what’s practical so that you don’t get infected … because the advantage of not being infected is that you are less likely to pass it on to others. So there are both individual and public benefits in trying to keep the numbers below what they are now. “
Dr Bennett said getting vaccinated, including with boosters, and wearing a mask were the best steps people can take to slow the spread of COVID.
âIt is important to remember that every time you go out it is the opportunity to be exposed to the virus,â she said.
“If you have to wear masks indoors, even though you don’t have to – if you are with other people masks are a great idea, they help protect you from infections.”
“[And] also, as people are now eligible for their boosters … this not only helps protect you but it will also help bring that [reproduction] numbers are slowly coming down over the next few weeks. “
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