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2.
Lancet Reg Health West Pac ; 25: 100498, 2022 Aug.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1907542

ABSTRACT

The Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) have experienced the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in different ways and with different timelines, with some experiencing large outbreaks leading to high levels of morbidity and mortality with significant strain on health systems, while others have had no local transmission or delayed transmission until after vaccine rollouts started. Regardless of COVID-19 trends, the pandemic has had a large impact on the social, political, and economic landscape in the Pacific, the effects of which are still being understood. However, the pandemic has also put renewed focus and investment into public health systems and provided an opportunity for the PICTs to build on existing systems and recent capacity strengthening to improve public health in the Region. Funding: Leila Bell was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship. Other funding sources had no role in paper design, data collection, data analysis, interpretation, or writing of the paper.

3.
J Viral Hepat ; 2022 Jun 20.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1896012

ABSTRACT

In 2020, the Australian state of Victoria experienced the longest COVID-19 lockdowns of any jurisdiction, with two lockdowns starting in March and July, respectively. Lockdowns may impact progress towards eliminating hepatitis C through reductions in hepatitis C testing. To examine the impact of lockdowns on hepatitis C testing in Victoria, de-identified data were extracted from a network of 11 services that specialize in the care of people who inject drugs (PWID). Interrupted time-series analyses estimated weekly changes in hepatitis C antibody and RNA testing from 1 January 2019 to 14 May 2021 and described temporal changes in testing associated with lockdowns. Interruptions were defined at the weeks corresponding to the start of the first lockdown (week 14) and the start (week 80) and end (week 95) of the second lockdown. Pre-COVID, an average of 80.6 antibody and 25.7 RNA tests were performed each week. Following the first lockdown in Victoria, there was an immediate drop of 23.2 antibody tests and 8.6 RNA tests per week (equivalent to a 31% and 46% drop, respectively). Following the second lockdown, there was an immediate drop of 17.2 antibody tests and 4.6 RNA tests per week (equivalent to a 26% and 33% drop, respectively). With testing and case finding identified as a key challenge to Australia achieving hepatitis C elimination targets, the cumulative number of testing opportunities missed during lockdowns may prolong efforts to find, diagnose and engage or reengage in care of the remaining population of PWID living with hepatitis C.

4.
BMC Infect Dis ; 22(1): 514, 2022 Jun 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1874998

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The city of Melbourne, Australia experienced two waves of the COVID-19 epidemic peaking, the first in March and a more substantial wave in July 2020. During the second wave, a series of control measure were progressively introduced that initially slowed the growth of the epidemic then resulted in decreasing cases until there was no detectable local transmission. METHODS: To determine the relative efficacy of the progressively introduced intervention measures, we modelled the second wave as a series of exponential growth and decay curves. We used a linear regression of the log of daily cases vs time, using a four-segment linear spline model corresponding to implementation of the three successive major public health measures. The primary model used all reported cases between 14 June and 15 September 2020 then compared the projection of the model with observed cases predicting future case trajectory up until the 31 October 2020 to assess the use of exponential models in projecting the future course and planning future interventions. The main outcome measures were the exponential daily growth constants, analysis of residuals and estimates of the 95% confidence intervals for the expected case distributions, comparison of predicted daily cases. RESULTS: The exponential growth/decay constants in the primary analysis were: 0.122 (s.e. 0.004), 0.035 (s.e. 0.005), - 0.037 (s.e. 0.011), and - 0.069 (s.e. 0.003) for the initial growth rate, Stage 3, Stage 3 + compulsory masks and Stage 4, respectively. Extrapolation of the regression model from the 14 September to the 31 October matched the decline in observed cases over this period. CONCLUSIONS: The four-segment exponential model provided an excellent fit of the observed reported case data and predicted the day-to-day range of expected cases. The extrapolated regression accurately predicted the decline leading to epidemic control in Melbourne.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Epidemics , Australia/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Forecasting , Humans , Public Health
5.
BMC Public Health ; 22:1-8, 2022.
Article in English | ProQuest Central | ID: covidwho-1857474

ABSTRACT

Background Pregnant women are a priority group for hepatitis B testing. Guideline-based care during antenatal and post-partum periods aims to prevent mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B virus and lower the risk of liver complications in mothers. This qualitative study explored knowledge of hepatitis B and experiences of hepatitis B related care among pregnant women and mothers. Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirteen women with hepatitis B who were attending antenatal or post-partum hepatitis B care. The interviews were thematically analysed to assess knowledge and understanding of hepatitis B. Participants were recruited from specialist clinics in metropolitan Melbourne between August 2019 and May 2020. Results Four major themes were identified from interviews: (1) knowledge and understanding of hepatitis B, (2) treatment pathways, (3) accessing hepatitis B related care, and (4) disclosing status to friends. Most participants displayed an understanding of hepatitis B transmission, including mother to child transmission. The main motivator of post-partum attendance was reassurance gained concerning their child’s health. Sources of hepatitis B information included doctors, online information and family. Participants identified parents and siblings as sources of support and reported an unwillingness to disclose hepatitis B status to friends. Conclusions Women attending antenatal or post-partum care reported having overall positive experiences, particularly regarding reassurance of their child’s health, but displayed misconceptions around horizontal transmission. Knowledge gained from these results can contribute to the development of targeted models of care for pregnant women and mothers with young children to ensure their successful linkage to care.

8.
EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-329888

ABSTRACT

Background: A key feature of the global public health response to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19 has been community-based quarantine and self-isolation. As part of The Optimise Study, this research sought to understand the factors that influence people’s ability to undertake home-based quarantine and isolation to contain the spread of COVID-19. Methods: Semi-structured qualitative phone interviews (n=25) were conducted by telephone with people who participated in community-based quarantine in Australia before 31 March 2020. The Capability Opportunity Motivation Behaviour model was used to conduct a thematic analysis. Results: Participants required clear, accessible and trusted information to guide them in home-based quarantine and isolation. A sense of social responsibility and belief in the efficacy of the restrictions to reduce viral transmission aided their motivation. Access to essential needs, supportive living environments, and emotional support were required to adhere to restrictions, but few were prepared. Conclusions: Findings demonstrate that in addition to having the capability and motivation to adhere to restrictions, it is vital that people are also encouraged to prepare for the challenge to ensure access to physical, social and emotional support. Findings also illustrate the importance of engaging communities in planning and preparedness for quarantine and self-isolation public health responses.

9.
Emerg Infect Dis ; 28(5): 1053-1055, 2022 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1736726

ABSTRACT

The Pacific Island country of Vanuatu is considering strategies to remove border restrictions implemented during 2020 to prevent imported coronavirus disease. We performed mathematical modeling to estimate the number of infectious travelers who had different entry scenarios and testing strategies. Travel bubbles and testing on entry have the greatest importation risk reduction.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Quarantine , COVID-19/prevention & control , Humans , SARS-CoV-2 , Travel , Vanuatu
10.
BMC Infect Dis ; 22(1): 232, 2022 Mar 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1731519

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: In settings with zero community transmission, any new SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks are likely to be the result of random incursions. The level of restrictions in place at the time of the incursion is likely to considerably affect possible outbreak trajectories, but the probability that a large outbreak eventuates is not known. METHODS: We used an agent-based model to investigate the relationship between ongoing restrictions and behavioural factors, and the probability of an incursion causing an outbreak and the resulting growth rate. We applied our model to the state of Victoria, Australia, which has reached zero community transmission as of November 2020. RESULTS: We found that a future incursion has a 45% probability of causing an outbreak (defined as a 7-day average of > 5 new cases per day within 60 days) if no restrictions were in place, decreasing to 23% with a mandatory masks policy, density restrictions on venues such as restaurants, and if employees worked from home where possible. A drop in community symptomatic testing rates was associated with up to a 10-percentage point increase in outbreak probability, highlighting the importance of maintaining high testing rates as part of a suppression strategy. CONCLUSIONS: Because the chance of an incursion occurring is closely related to border controls, outbreak risk management strategies require an integrated approaching spanning border controls, ongoing restrictions, and plans for response. Each individual restriction or control strategy reduces the risk of an outbreak. They can be traded off against each other, but if too many are removed there is a danger of accumulating an unsafe level of risk. The outbreak probabilities estimated in this study are of particular relevance in assessing the downstream risks associated with increased international travel.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Disease Outbreaks/prevention & control , Humans , Longitudinal Studies , SARS-CoV-2 , Victoria/epidemiology
11.
Vaccines (Basel) ; 10(2)2022 Jan 28.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1667370

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: High vaccine uptake requires strong public support, acceptance, and willingness. METHODS: A longitudinal cohort study gathered survey data every four weeks between 1 October 2020 and 9 November 2021 in Victoria, Australia. Data were analysed for 686 participants aged 18 years and older. RESULTS: Vaccine intention in our cohort increased from 60% in October 2020 to 99% in November 2021. Vaccine intention increased in all demographics, but longitudinal trends in vaccine intention differed by age, employment as a healthcare worker, presence of children in the household, and highest qualification attained. Acceptance of vaccine mandates increased from 50% in October 2020 to 71% in November 2021. Acceptance of vaccine mandates increased in all age groups except 18-25 years; acceptance also varied by gender and highest qualification attained. The main reasons for not intending to be vaccinated included safety concerns, including blood clots, and vaccine efficacy. CONCLUSION: COVID-19 vaccination campaigns should be informed by understanding of the sociodemographic drivers of vaccine acceptance to enable socially and culturally relevant guidance and ensure equitable vaccine coverage. Vaccination policies should be applied judiciously to avoid polarisation.

12.
PLoS One ; 16(7): e0253510, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1319515

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Whilst evidence of use of face masks in reducing COVID-19 cases is increasing, the impact of mandatory use across a large population has been difficult to assess. Introduction of mandatory mask use on July 22, 2020 during a resurgence of COVID-19 in Melbourne, Australia created a situation that facilitated an assessment of the impact of the policy on the epidemic growth rate as its introduction occurred in the absence of other changes to restrictions. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Exponential epidemic growth or decay rates in daily COVID-19 diagnoses were estimated using a non-weighted linear regression of the natural logarithm of the daily cases against time, using a linear spline model with one knot (lspline package in R v 3.6.3). The model's two linear segments pivot around the hinge day, on which the mask policy began to take effect, 8 days following the introduction of the policy. We used two forms of data to assess change in mask usage: images of people wearing masks in public places obtained from a major media outlet and population-based survey data. Potential confounding factors (including daily COVID-19 tests, number of COVID-19 cases among population subsets affected differentially by the mask policy-e.g., healthcare workers) were examined for their impact on the results. Daily cases fitted an exponential growth in the first log-linear segment (k = +0.042, s.e. = 0.007), and fitted an exponential decay in the second (k = -0.023, s.e. = 0.017) log-linear segment. Over a range of reported serial intervals for SARS-CoV-2 infection, these growth rates correspond to a 22-33% reduction in an effective reproduction ratio before and after mandatory mask use. Analysis of images of people in public spaces showed mask usage rose from approximately 43% to 97%. Analysis of survey data found that on the third day before policy introduction, 44% of participants reported "often" or "always" wearing a mask; on the fourth day after, 100% reported "always" doing so. No potentially confounding factors were associated with the observed change in growth rates. CONCLUSIONS: The mandatory mask use policy substantially increased public use of masks and was associated with a significant decline in new COVID-19 cases after introduction of the policy. This study strongly supports the use of masks for controlling epidemics in the broader community.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Masks/statistics & numerical data , Policy , Australia/epidemiology , Cities/epidemiology , Health Behavior , Humans , Multivariate Analysis , Pandemics/prevention & control
14.
BMJ Open ; 11(4): e045941, 2021 04 20.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1195844

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease, has the potential to spread exponentially. Therefore, as long as a substantial proportion of the population remains susceptible to infection, the potential for new epidemic waves persists even in settings with low numbers of active COVID-19 infections, unless sufficient countermeasures are in place. We aim to quantify vulnerability to resurgences in COVID-19 transmission under variations in the levels of testing, tracing and mask usage. SETTING: The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), a setting with prolonged low transmission, high mobility, non-universal mask usage and a well-functioning test-and-trace system. PARTICIPANTS: None (simulation study). RESULTS: We find that the relative impact of masks is greatest when testing and tracing rates are lower and vice versa. Scenarios with very high testing rates (90% of people with symptoms, plus 90% of people with a known history of contact with a confirmed case) were estimated to lead to a robustly controlled epidemic. However, across comparable levels of mask uptake and contact tracing, the number of infections over this period was projected to be 2-3 times higher if the testing rate was 80% instead of 90%, 8-12 times higher if the testing rate was 65% or 30-50 times higher with a 50% testing rate. In reality, NSW diagnosed 254 locally acquired cases over this period, an outcome that had a moderate probability in the model (10%-18%) assuming low mask uptake (0%-25%), even in the presence of extremely high testing (90%) and near-perfect community contact tracing (75%-100%), and a considerably higher probability if testing or tracing were at lower levels. CONCLUSIONS: Our work suggests that testing, tracing and masks can all be effective means of controlling transmission. A multifaceted strategy that combines all three, alongside continued hygiene and distancing protocols, is likely to be the most robust means of controlling transmission of SARS-CoV-2.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Pandemics , Australia/epidemiology , Contact Tracing , Humans , Masks , New South Wales/epidemiology , SARS-CoV-2
17.
Med J Aust ; 214(2): 79-83, 2021 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-934605

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: To assess the risks associated with relaxing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related physical distancing restrictions and lockdown policies during a period of low viral transmission. DESIGN: Network-based viral transmission risks in households, schools, workplaces, and a variety of community spaces and activities were simulated in an agent-based model, Covasim. SETTING: The model was calibrated for a baseline scenario reflecting the epidemiological and policy environment in Victoria during March-May 2020, a period of low community viral transmission. INTERVENTION: Policy changes for easing COVID-19-related restrictions from May 2020 were simulated in the context of interventions that included testing, contact tracing (including with a smartphone app), and quarantine. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Increase in detected COVID-19 cases following relaxation of restrictions. RESULTS: Policy changes that facilitate contact of individuals with large numbers of unknown people (eg, opening bars, increased public transport use) were associated with the greatest risk of COVID-19 case numbers increasing; changes leading to smaller, structured gatherings with known contacts (eg, small social gatherings, opening schools) were associated with lower risks. In our model, the rise in case numbers following some policy changes was notable only two months after their implementation. CONCLUSIONS: Removing several COVID-19-related restrictions within a short period of time should be undertaken with care, as the consequences may not be apparent for more than two months. Our findings support continuation of work from home policies (to reduce public transport use) and strategies that mitigate the risk associated with re-opening of social venues.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/transmission , Epidemiological Monitoring , Health Policy , Models, Theoretical , Physical Distancing , Quarantine , Contact Tracing/methods , Humans , Mobile Applications , Risk Assessment , SARS-CoV-2 , Smartphone , Victoria/epidemiology
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