60 second intro

  • Were being told regularly that the government thinks the current lockdown could last ‘at least 6 months.’
  • Running the numbers, however, (see below) it seems we will be under some form of lock down for a lot longer than that. At least a year. Probably 18 months.
  • Working up from the number of ventilators we have suggests it’ll be 3 years until were set free.
  • I.E. in practical terms until the vaccine is developed, in 12-18 months, mass produced and disseminated, we will be on ‘some form of lockdown.’

The current message from government

The current message from government is at least misleading. They tell us that we can expect to be locked down in Australia for 6 months or so. If you listen carefully they says ‘at least’ 6 months. Their choice of words is understandable. They want to reassure us. Everyone has enough on their plate at the moment already.

The thing is, the virus isn’t going anywhere. It will lurk somewhere in our community until a vaccines found. And that means we will be on lockdown for a long time.

Assumptions, Calculations and Results

The most likely approach seems to be that the government will loosen and tighten the rules that are in place around lockdown. The question is – how much should they loosen the rules? This maths (below) is an attempt to work that out.

Remember, these numbers are indicative. We might get a few more ventilators, nurses, or even find that the average time people are held on ventilators is less than the 2 weeks I’ve allowed. The reality is, however, you have to dramatically change at least a couple of these variables to get inside a 12 month horizon (at least) for life getting back to normal.

These are the assumptions behind the maths which says we will stay in some form of lockdown for more than 6 months.
The source of these data points is recent news reports on COVID – 19.
  • Lets say only 2% of people get really sick and require intubation.
  • Let’s also assume that the medical teams manage the use of respirators perfectly.
  • None break, they are all in use 100% of the time
  • Australia has around 2,000 ventilators.
  • Let’s increase the number of respirators to 5k. (The government is only looking to buy 2k in addition to the 2k we already have.)
  • The average duration use of a respirator is 10 days.
Up to 250,000 Australians can get sick at any one time, using these realistic assumptions.
If we more than double the number of ventilators we have, above government forecasts and apply a 2% assumption of those who get seriously ill, up to 250k Australians can be sick at one time before we overwhelm medical services
  • So, every 10 days, you can expose 250k people, around 1% of the population, to the virus and keep everyone alive.
  • So you need 100 x 14 days, or 4 years, to get through the pandemic.

lockdown 6 months result

Finally, older Australians cannot participate in this. They will have to stay inside for potentially years.

Looking at the maths of it

They said the first world war would be over by Christmas and it then went on for years. I think there is a psychological aspect to this. The government is feeding us the story in manageable chunks.

Personally, I believe Australia is shut down until at least April 2020. That’s a year from now.

There is some talk that they’ll loosen and tighten restrictions so we are all exposed to the virus but don’t overwhelm medical services.

How it might work in practice

How social distancing rules being applied and then relaxed might practically help us.
This is how it might work in reality. They open and close the valves of social distancing to let the virus work through the population without overwhelming the medical services.

Our ability to have a lot of people in intensive care wards will increase over time as we get better at making the equipment we need (e.g. ventilators.) But there are other constraints which are harder to deal with – like the availability of qualified nurses.

It’s expensive to continue to do this

My view here (that we will be locked down for longer than a few weeks) is not actually that controversial.

There is, of course, an economic imperative to get back to work. Already 80 countries have gone to the IMF to get bailed out for the cost of looking after their citizens as a result of COVID-19. It’s just that the maths means we will have to stay locked down for longer than 6 months. How long can Australia afford to make benefit payments to the whole economy?

It seems likely that they will relax and then crack down on social distancing regulations so the virus can work its way through the population without overwhelming the medical services leading to peaks and troughs. Which is why I say we will be on ‘some sort’ of lockdown for a lot more than 6 months.